Best Shows in Denver October 2021

The Milk Blossoms perform at Titwrench on Sunday 10.03, photo by Cory Palencia
Muscle Beach circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 10.01
What: Muscle Beach, Cheap Perfume and Mainland Break
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a now rare opportunity to see Denver post-hardcore band Muscle Beach. Fitting somewhere in between noise rock, the aforementioned subgenre of punk and extreme metal, Muscle Beach also somehow manages to create an inviting rather than forbidding energy. Cheap Perfume’s strident and thrilling feminist punk anthems challenge tropes of punk and social convention equally with great energy and sass. Mainland Break’s jangle-y power pop is absolutely for fans of Franz Ferdinand and Nick Lowe with a perfect balance of homespun storytelling and burning off everyday frustration with fuzz-tinged melodies.

Saturday | 10.02
What: Franksgiving 2021: Ralph Gean, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band and The Pollution, DJ Don Bess
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The late Franklin Bell was a local character whose eccentric DJ nights were a hit with the local weirdo music cognoscenti. For several years he held an event called Franksgiving as a fundraiser for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. With the relatively recent passing of Bell, his friend Little Fyodor has taken up the cause in Bell’s name and merch sales as well as proceeds from the evening will be donated to the aforementioned charity. If you show up you’ll get to see Denver rock and roll legend Ralph Gean, the über punk of Little Fyodor & Babushka Band (don’t go expecting another Ramones or Black Flag clone, this is weird, smart, eccentric stuff and as filled with attitude and as informed by existential anxiety as the best of the genre), the psychedelic punk of The Pollution and DJ Don Bess whose own bizarre choice of cuts for the evening will be decidedly different. Some of the city’s finest all on one bill and for a good cause.

Sol Vida Worldwide performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist

Sunday | 10.03
What: Titwrench 2021: Nacha Mendez (Santa Fe), The Milk Blossoms, Machete Mouth, My Name is Harriett (Colorado Springs) and Sol Vida Worldwide
When: 4-10 p.m.
Where: City Park Pavilion 2001 Steele St,
Why: The Titwrench Festival launched in 2009 as a means of shining a light on the creative efforts of marginalized groups beginning with the musical and art works of female identified folks and expanded to other groups including the 2SLBGTQIAP+ community at large and people of color and so on. While the curation has been thusly focused, the festival has always been all ages and inclusive and open to everyone to get to experience creative performances in a safe environment from people whose work isn’t always featured in the usual venues and rooms where you generally get to see live music. The current edition of the festival takes place on Sunday, October 3, 2021 from 4-10 p.m. at the Denver City Park Pavilion. The event will include educational workshops, dance parties, food from Maiz food truck (selling homemade Mexican cuisine) and a market featuring Witch Collective, a group of local artisans and herbalists. Also, this year Suzi Q. Smith will be the MC. Our recent podcast includes interviews with the event organizers (Sarah Slater, Michaela Perez and Katie Rothery) and members of all the performing artists including My Name is Harriet, Machete Mouth, Nacha Mendez, April (Axé) Charmane of Sol Vida Worldwide and Harmony Rose of The Milkblossoms which you can listen to on Bandcamp. For more information on the festival please visit titwrenchcollective.org.

Nacha Mendez performs at Titwrench, photo by M. Cordero
My Name Is Harriett performs at Titwrench, image courtesy the artist
Machete Mouth performs at Titwrench, photo by Tom Murphy circa 2021
The Shivas at the Gothic Theatre in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 10.04
What: The Shivas w/Rootbeer Richie & The Reveille and Honey Blazer
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Since forming in 2006, Portland, Oregon’s The Shivas has developed a sound that incorporates elements of 60s psychedelic garage rock and pop but out of step with obvious trends. Its idiosyncratic songwriting style has always seemed to have more in common with the 90s indie pop and its emphasis on raw expressiveness and tapping into classic sounds and aesthetics as a vehicle for expressing timeless themes and universal human emotions with an intensity and artistry that feels vital and of the moment and not trying to recreate a previous era of music and culture. The band started making a name for itself in the American underground in the late 2000s but its breakthrough to a wider audience might be traced in the wake of the release of its 2013 album Whiteout! On the respected and influential label K Records. Heavy touring every year and a string of solid albums garnered the band a bit of a cult following when, in 2020, The Shivas, like many touring entities, had to effectively stop operations. The foursome had already written its next album and had to put plans on hold for any kind of release until the following year. During the first part of the pandemic and a de facto blackout of live shows happening, three fourths of the band worked with the unhouse population of Portland through a non-profit and took time to rethink and rework how the band would operate going into the future. In early 2021 the group released its latest album Feels So Good // Feels So Bad through Tender Loving Empire, a record that evokes the sense of urgency and uncertainty that all of us felt during the bleakest times of the 2020-2021 pandemic but which many of us poignantly felt prior to that global, and ongoing, health crisis. It is both a cathartic and comforting listen. Check out our interview with The Shivas on Bandcamp.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

Monday | 10.04
What: Indigo De Souza w/The Slaps
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.

Tuesday | 10.05
What: Arlo Parks w/Michelle
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Arlo Parks’ debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams was one of the more anticipated releases of the past year. Her early EPs showcased a unique and soulful voice from an artist with a deft and easy wordplay that gave an added dimension to her jazz-inflected downtempo pop songwriting. Her performance video for Seattle’s KEXP recorded during the pandemic verified Parks’ self-possession as a performer capable of commanding attention within the coolly dynamic flow of the music.

Japanese Breakfast, photo by Peter Ash Lee

Friday | 10.08
What: Japanese Breakfast w/Luna Li
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With every album Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast has seemed to take on powerful emotional challenges as almost an engine for her creativity. Psychopomp was written while her mother went through treatment for cancer, Soft Sounds From Another Planet was written in the wake of her mother’s death and seemed like a personalized science fiction story as an attempt to make a meaning of events for anyone listening in to her heartfelt sentiments and poetic exploration of inner space channeled into expansive and inventive art rock. Her latest album, Jubilee, is a departure from those first two records in being more overtly pop in the sense that writing a pop song with resonance and poignancy is a challenge and a way to remain focused on something that distills joy for at least a few moments of time with observations that express essential truths. The record has much in common with the great indie pop bands of the 90s and 2000s and how that music was ambitious and experimental in utilizing sounds and song dynamics that were out of step with what was popular but which has gone on to age well. 2021 has been a bit of a banner year for Zauner as it also marks the release of her powerful memoir Crying in H Mart. If you’re lucky enough to have an H Mart in or around your city and, perchance, have spent time in one the book has a special, tactile, cultural resonance that is difficult to fully appreciate without experiencing that gloriously pan-Asian market for yourself.

Friday – Saturday | 10.08 and 10.09
What: Convulse Records 3 Year Anniversary
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Aztlan Theater
Why: Hardcore label Convulse Records celebrates its three year anniversary with a two day festival at the historic Aztlan Theater where many a punk and underground music show took place in the decades leading up to the 21st century. The scheduled performers include Goon, Spine, Militarie Gun, Ingrown, Raw Breed, Discreet, The Consequence, Spy, Urban Sprawl, Faim, Entry, Big Laugh, Video Prick, Punitive Damage, Gel, Scowl, Closed In, Sweat, Cyst, Battlesex, Public Opinion, Direct Threat, MSPaint, Drill Sergeant, Yambag, Rash, Candy Apple, L.I.B., Blood Loss, Reality Complex and Asbestos. See set times below and keep in mind that with all festivals set times can be a little loose around the edges.

Saturday | 10.09
What: Grief Ritual album release w/Church Fire, Lost Relics and Dulled Arrows
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Grief Ritual celebrates the release of its debut album The Gallows Laugh. The band’s blend of post-hardcore and extreme metal is threaded through with surprisingly uplifting melodies as contrasted with distorted vocals and fluidly heavy riffs. Also on the bill are sludge metal greats Lost Relics whose own 2021 album Now We’re Even dropped in April. Dulled Arrows is a bit of a departure from the heavy with its blend of math rock and Americana. Even more of a departure for this show is Church Fire and its revolutionary industrial dance synth pop.

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen

Saturday | 10.09
What: Nation of Language w/Oko Tygra
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: For its new album, A Way Forward due out on November 5, 2021 on PIAS, Nation of Language reached back to the roots of its sound to early pioneers of electronic pop and rock like Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Suicide and OMD. It also has the transformative sense of wonder mixed with nostalgia heard in the music of Tor Lundvall in the 90s as released on the 2019 compilation A Strangeness In Motion. So called minimal synth from the early 2010s was very much part of the emergent modern darkwave movement and Nation of Language has refined those sounds and impulses in a way that should also appeal to fans of Perfume Genius and Future Islands. Opening the show is the great, soulful dream pop band Oko Tygra who though clearly inspired in part by Cocteau Twins also bring an R&B sensibility to its lush and affecting guitar rock.

Saturday | 10.09
What: Supersuckers w/Reno Divorce and Luke Schmaltz
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Supersuckers were part of that whole mess of the Seattle music scene explosion of the early 90s and benefited from that association but somehow survived the fallout of that collapse to become a beloved underground touring act for some 30 years now. Reno Divorce may be a roots punk band but its stories of everyday struggle hit deep and its spirited performances help drive that content home. Luke Schmaltz was and is the frontman for long running Denver punk legends King Rat and he brings a literary flair to his punk songwriting though for this show he’s going solo.

cleopatrick, photo by Tanner Pare

Monday | 10.11
What: cleopatrick w/Zig Mentality and Ready The Prince
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: cleopatrick’s 2021 debut album BUMMER seethes with irresistible intensity. Like a hop-hop album written by guys who make music that sounds like they had to listen to Soundgarden and Sleaford Mods through blown out speakers growing up. The vocal cadence has that kind of flow and the burning, distorted, pulsing guitar work is almost like a sample in the way it is employed in the mix of sounds.

Cellista, image by Yellow Bubbles Photography

Friday | 10.15
What: Cellista PARIAH tour w/Zero Collective (LA) and Herpes Hideaway
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Cellista returns with her latest album PARIAH which is a fairytale concept album of a sort. But it’s a fairytale about confronting injustice by daring to speak the truth even though rejection by one’s community is often inevitable with a long and uncertain road to vindication for refusing to accept the official version of events. In live performance Freya Cellista aims to break down the barrier of performer and audience with a collective experience of the music. The combination of classical music, pop and opera makes the type of creative work one often has to go to a fancy theater or art gallery to see accessible in a smaller setting like Mutiny.

Friday | 10.15
What: The Final Sound (Brooklyn) w/eHpH and Weathered Statues
When: 8 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: New York’s The Final Sound brings its moody post-punk flavored dream pop to Denver in the wake of the release of its 2021 album Automata Theory. Fans of The Chamleons and Pink Turns blue will appreciate what The Final Sound have to offer. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver with a touch of punk brashness that gives the music an expansive momentum and pop flavoring. EhpH is one of Denver’s most interesting EBM/industrial bands even though its latest album, 2020’s Infrared, revealed a bit more than a passing gift for making brooding and deeply atmospheric post-punk.

Valley Maker, photo by Bree Burchfield

Friday | 10.15
What: Valley Maker w/Patrick Dethlefs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Austin Crane was already writing thoughtful, delicately textured folk style songs on the 2010 self-titled debut Valley Maker album. But with the 2021 release of When The Day Leaves it’s like you’re getting to see those modest though sophisticated creative beginnings attain a full bloom with subtle layers of dynamics interlocking and resolving around rhythm of the poetic imagery of the lyrics. It’s a mastery of songcraft in this loose realm of songwriting that one hears in the work of Sam Beam where storytelling, elegant turns of phrase and delicacy of feeling work together with a nuanced evocation of life’s poignant moments strike you with power of gentle epiphany.

Saturday | 10.16
What: 100 Gecs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: 100 Gecs is, loosely and perhaps imprecisely speaking, an experimental pop duo from St. Louis whose sound combines noise, trap, industrial pop, EDM and video game music. The auto-tuned vocals and hyperkinetic yet chill production is the kind of thing that will alienate and outrage more conventionally-minded tastes which is why it’s interesting in the first place in flouting outdated notions of good taste. It is unabashedly its own thing which is why the group has garnered a cult following not just for the music but its non-gendered presentation as performers. If you thought people hated Riff Raff, this is weirder with stage personae that really do push the envelope in a creative way and thus culturally significant for that as well as pushing into hybrid musical territories in making something new and undeniably accessible and interesting if you’re open to the unfamiliar.

Monday | 10.18
What: Erykah Badu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Erykah Badu is one of the pioneers of psychedelic neo-soul whose emotionally vibrant and deep songs have rightfully caught the attention of a wide audience since the late 90s after the release of her 1997 debut album Baduizm. Her gift for jazz idiom and poetry in the context of hip-hop and soul is second to none and her commanding live performances are always moving and worth witnessing.

Cradle of Filth, image courtesy the artists

Monday | 10.18
What: Cradle of Filth w/3TEETH and Once Human
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Cradle of Filth is currently touring and performing its 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast in its entirety. The concept album centered around the story of the 16th/17th century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory. So go expecting the band’s usual theatrical, extreme metal bombast with some older fan favorites and perhaps some cuts from the group’s forthcoming album Existence is Futile.

Thursday | 10.21
What: Juliet Mission, Jacket of Spiders, Amalgam Effect
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Juliet Mission is a trio that includes former and current members of classic Denver alternative rock band Sympathy F. Juliet Mission has less jazz elements than the latter and its music is more in vein with the great, gloomy, dark vibe of old Denver. Jacket of Spiders includes former members of Twice Wilted and Tarmints doing a more shoegaze-y and post-punk thing.

Kal Marks, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 10.24
What: Kal Marks w/Moon Pussy and Tender Object
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kal Marks from Boston has been making some of the most scorchingly abrasive yet accessible noise rock this side of Big Black for over a decade all while mixing in haunting atmospherics and irreverent storytelling. The title of the group’s 2019 EP Let The Shit House Burn Down about summed up widespread frustration with the direction of American society and government. Did this band woodshed songwriting while listening only to releases on Amphetamine Reptile, Touch and Go and Siltbreeze before putting out any releases? Probably not but thankfully they sound like that was part of the creative process to shield musical instincts from the temptation to aim for appealing to tastes dullened by having become used to music that sounds tame and having gone through focus group meetings before being marketed as exciting when it’s anything but. Moon Pussy from Denver are a similar type of band with its own eruptive dynamics and emotional intensity coupled with scorching soundscapes.

Tuesday | 10.26
What: Lords of Acid w/Aesthetic Perfection, Praga Khan and MXMS
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Lords of Acid is the Belgian industrial dance band whose overtly sexually themed songs are a hedonistic celebration of life and a repudiation of puritanical sensibilities and a-human hypocrisy. But even if that’s not completely your thing the songs are fun especially in the live setting when you don’t always know what frontman Praga Khan will get up to on stage all in the spirit of a good time. MXMS is the excellent dream pop/downtempo group from Los Angeles whose lush, sultry sound is reminiscent of MIA by way of Crystal Castles and Goldfrapp.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

Wednesday | 10.27
What: Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Lex Leosis
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Snotty Nose Red Kids is a Canadian First Nations hip-hop duo whose production seems as dark as it is playful. Their songs suss out the corners of depression and alienation with sharp couplets that flow with a jagged yet sinuous flow. Currently the group is touring for its fourth full length album Life After.

Thursday | 10.28
What: Mr. Atomic w/Trash and Gila Teen
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Denver’s Gila Teen is what happens when punk and emo kids discover post-punk and manage not to go Goth yet embrace that emotional intensity as a vehicle for making honest art. Mr. Atomic from Fort Collins could be dismissed as yet another 2010s/2020s band that really hopped back on that retro 90s alternative rock revival bandwagon. But its energetic shows and strong songwriting makes such considerations irrelevant because if you band can bring it live that’s all that matters in making it something to recommend.

Tokyo Police Club, photo by Taylor Ohryn

Saturday | 10.30
What: Tokyo Police Club w/Pkew Pkew Pkew https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/405233
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Tokyo Police Club got going in 2005 and benefited directly from the peak years of the music blog phenomenon from roughly 2006-2016. The band hit the sweet spot of a mix of influences that sounded like 90s indie rock like Cursive and Modest Mouse and the then still strong post-punk revival. What set the band apart from a steady stream of cookie cutter indie rock was its strong songwriting and thoughtful, insightful lyrics. This was perhaps best embodied in its first half decade by the 2010 album Champ which the 10th anniversary edition of which TPC announced at the end of 2020 and released in 2021. Opening the show are fellow Canadians Pkew Pkew Pkew and their brand of anthemic pop punk.

Saturday | 10.30
What: itchy-O Hallowmass w/J.G. Thirlwell
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: itchy-O is the experimental, maximalist electronics and rhythm mobile orchestra that has graced Denver, Colorado and worldwide stages for over around a decade. It’s performance art as much as music though both can be enjoyed independently, which is why itchy-O is still interesting and not an inspired gimmick, as the collective has evolved all aspects of its show and recordings from launch. It’s a bombastic and unforgettable spectacle everyone should get to see. Opening the show is legendary producer and influential industrial artist J.G. Thirlwell whose project Foetus helped to pioneer and develop the industrial and noise genres at the beginning of the 1980s. He has been involved in other people’s records for decades including a fascinating collaboration with Zola Jesus for her 2013 remix album Versions.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2019

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins

This best of list was intended for publication in 2020 and parts of the entries with comments were published in my year end best list for the print edition of Birdy magazine in Denver for the December 2019 issue. The full best of list is presented here with those short reviews included with the appropriate album and the rest included without comment and several album covers shared as well. The album of the year was All Your Sisters’ Trust Ruins (listed first) because it encapsulated the mood of the year and the band put on one of the best shows of 2019 and the record felt like a leap forward in style and execution for the band. Soon I’ll publish the full best of 2020 list too in a similar format with the commentary for those items that made it into the print edition of Birdy for December 2020.

All Your Sisters | Trust Ruins | The Flenser
A brutal, maximalist summation of the turmoil, conflict, sense of chaos and confusion, rage and frustration and overwhelming flood of negative input from world and societal events of the previous few years. In articulating those feelings and experiences and more alone as powerfully as it does, this album by All Your Sisters transcends genre by providing an example of how industrial and darkwave music can burst beyond established conventions with the sharp-edged and precise percussion framing and channeling the fiery energy at the core of the songwriting.

Adia Victoria | Silences | Atlantic

Adrianna Krikl | Celestial | Self-released

Aldous Harding | Designer | 4AD

Alex Cameron | Miami Memory | Secretly Canadian

Altas | All I Ever Wanted Was | Self-released
A lush deepening of the band’s sweeping, cinematic aesthetic.

Anamanaguchi | [USA] | Polyvinyl

Andre Cactus | Dune Juice | Multidim Records

Andy Stott | It Should Be Us | Modern Love

Angel Olsen | All Mirrors | Jagjaguwar
Poignantly dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny.

Bestial Mouths | INSHROUDSS | Rune & Ruin

Bellhoss | Geraniums | Self-released
Buoyant, lo-fi slowcore love songs for inner awkward nerd.

Bethlehem Steel | s/t | Exploding in Sound
The utter exorcism of oppression through bursts of melodic/atonal poetry.

Big Dopes | Crimes Against Gratitude | Self-released
Captivating indie pop earworm vingettes of American malaise and hope.

Big Thief | U.F.O.F. / Two Hands | 4AD

Bison Bone | Take Up the Trouble | Self-released

Black Belt Eagle Scout | At The Party With My Brown Friends | Saddle Creek

black midi | Schlagenheim | Rough Trade Records
A primer for the new avant-guitar rock revolution.

Black Mountain | Destroyer | Jagjaguwar

Blanck Mass | Animated Violence Mild | Sacred Bones

Blood Incantation | Hidden History of the Human Race | Dark Descent

Boy Scouts | Free Company | ANTI-

Briffaut | A Maritime Odyssey: Heaven is Only a Boat Race Away | GROUPHUG

Calexico and Iron and Wine | Years to Burn | Subpop

Cat Tyson Hughes | Gentle Encounters With Things | Self-released
Ambient, aural snapshots of memory fragments from the hypnogogic state.

Cau5er | The Tower | Self-released

Ceremony | In the Spirit World Now | Relapse Records

Chastity Belt | Chastity Belt | Hardly Art

Cheap Perfume | Burn It Down | Snappy Little Numbers

Chella and the Charm | Good Gal | Self-released

Chelsea Wolfe | Birth of Violence | Sargent House

Chimney Choir | (light shadow) | Self-released

Chromatics | Closer to Grey | Italians Do It Better

clipping. | There Existed an Addiction to Blood | Sub Pop

Consumer | In Computers | The Flenser

Control Top | Covert Contracts | Get Better Records

Cop Circles | Vacation for Hurt | Self-released
Subversive, Laurie Anderson-esque, New Age, No Wave send-up of corporate seminar jingles.

Cosey Fanni Tutti | Tutti | Conspiracy International
Heavy and hypnotic industrial rave autobiography through sound.

Curse | Metamorphism | Fake Crab Records
Eight, powerful, darkwave, prophetic warnings of our potential future.

Danny Brown | uknowhatimsayin¿ | Warp Records
Relentlessly inventive beats and tragicomedic, self-immolating swagger, sci-fi autobiography.

Davi Valois | Bátraquio | Space Cow Music

Deafkids | Metaprogramação | Neurot Recordings
Immersive, ambient-industrial death grind.

Doo Crowder | One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims) | Self-released
The greatest art pop record since the death of Harry Nilsson.

Dog Basketball | s/t | Self-released

Drab Majesty | Modern Mirror | Dais Records
Moodily heartbreaking deep dive into the essence of love, memory and beauty.

Drowse | Light Mirror/Second Self | The Flenser

Dude York | Falling | Hardly Art

Earl Sweatshirt | FEET OF CLAY | Tan Cressida

Elizabeth Colour Wheel | Nocebo | The Flenser
Majestic, urban-tribal, noise-sludge dream psych.

Empath | Active Listening: Night On Earth | Get Better Records

Entrancer | Downgrade | Multidim Records

Ex Hex | It’s Real | Merge Records
Cosmic New Wave power pop gems beginning to end.

Facs | Lifelike | Trouble In Mind

FEELS / Shannon Lay | Post Earth / August | Wichita / Sub Pop

FM Cubgod | Handsome? | Self-released

Foxes in Fiction | Trillium Killer | Orchid Tapes

Frankie Cosmos | Close It Quietly | Sub Pop

French Kettle Station | Over X Millennia | Self-released
Retro-furturist, New Age pop shade jams on contemporary wack culture.

Future Sound of London | Yage | Fsol Digital

Gila Teen | Doesn’t | Self-released

Glissline | Digital Bipolarism | Multidim Records

Gold Trash | Quiet Violence | Glasss Records
Collage glitch industrial hip-hop daggers into misogynist culture.

Goon | Natural Evil | Convulse Records

Guerilla Toss | What Would The Odd Do? | DFA
Mind-altering, subtropical, disco punk dance pop.

Guidon Bear | Downwardly Mobile: Steel Accelerator | Antiquated Future Records

Gun Street Ghost | Battles | Self-released

Half Shadow | Dream Weather Its Electric Song | Illusion Florist

Haunted Horses | Dead Meat | SIXWIX

Have a Nice Life | Sea of Worry | The Flenser

HEALTH | Slaves of Fear Vol. 4 | Loma Vista Recordings

HIDE | Hell is Here | Dais Records

Holly Herndon | Proto | 4AD

HTRK | Venus In Leo | Ghostly International
Love songs from downtempo dance clubs in the future urban decay.

Jamila Woods | Legacy! Legacy! | Jagjaguwar

Jenny Hval | The Practice of Love | Sacred Bones

Kal Marks | Let the Shit House Burn Down | Exploding in Sound

Kid Mask | dead sore(s) | Self-released
Dispatches from the industrial glitch techno hard rave revolution.

Kim Gordon | No Home Record | Matador Records
Scathing jazz cool poetry set to hip-hop-inflected noise.

Kristin Hersh | Possible Dust Clouds | Fire Records

Kyle Emerson | Only Coming Down | Swoon City Music

Larians | Looming Boy EP | Self-released
Loneliness and isolation distilled as shimmering IDM nuggets.

Legendary Pink Dots | Angel in the Detail | Metropolis Records
A brilliant synthesis of classical sonic architecture, emotionally charged ambient and deep social critique.

Lightning Cult | EP 2: Ether Waves | Cloud Command Sound

Lingua Ignota | Caligula | Profound Lore
Caustic, industrial fusillade against patriarchal fragility.

Lisa Prank | Perfect Love Song | Father/Daughter Records

Little Fyodor | Pithy Romantic Ballads | Self-released
Arch punk cynic and curmudgeon begrudgingly admits affection and survives.

Lot Lizard | s/t | Different Folk Records

Lower Dens | The Competition | Ribbon Music

Malibu Ken | s/t | Rhymesayers

Mannequin Pussy | Patience | Epitaph

Mdou Moctar | Ilana: The Creator | Sahel Sounds
Intricate African prog suffused with the joy of the creative act.

Moon Pussy | Band Meating | Self-released
Eruptive, searing, angular, anti-pop exorcisms.

Muscle Beach | Charms | Sailor Records

Necropanther | The Doomed City | Self-released

New Standards Men | Field Recordings From Late Capitalism Vol. 10 | Self-released

No Gossip in Braille | Bend Toward Perfect Light | Cercle Social Records
The transmogrification of sorrow into transcendent melodies.

NoSwoon | s/t | Substitute Scene Records
Effervescent yet introspective dark wave synth pop.

Nots | 3 | Goner Records

Nuancer | I Hardly Know Her | Self-released

Obtuse | Who’s Askin’? | Self-released
Gloriously earnestly meaningful, off-the-cuff, utterly unpretentious pop punk.

Oh, Rose | While My Father Sleeps | Park The Van

Oko Tygra | Assistoma | Grey Market Records
Masterfully executed emotionally stirring downtempo dream pop.

Old Time Relijun | See Now And Know | K Records

Orbit Service | The Door to the Sky | Self-released

Pedestrian Deposit | Dyers’ Hands | Monorail Trespassing
The sonic analog of places we don’t want to visit but are drawn to anyway.

Pharmakon | Devour | Sacred Bones

Pinkish Black | Concept Unification | Relapse Records

Pile | Green and Gray | Exploding in Sound
Furiously poetic, orchestral and thoughtful blueprint for arty, noisy post-punk to come.

Plaid | Polymer | Warp Records

Pop. 1280 | Way Station | Weyrd Son Records

POW! | Shift | Castle Face Records

Priests | The Seduction of Kansas | Sister Polygon

Redwing Blackbird | Too Klaus For Comfort | Self-released

Rowboat | Birchwood Halls | Self-released

Secret Shame | Dark Synthetics | Portrayal of Guilt Records

Sheer Mag | A Distant Call | Wilsuns Recording Company
Modern blues punk’s equivalent of Judas Priest’s Stained Class.

She Past Away | Disko Anksiyete | Metropolis Records / Fabrika Records

ShitKid | DETENTION | PNKSLM Recordings

Silence in the Snow | Levitation Chamber | Prophecy Productions

Sleaford Mods | Eton Alive | Extreme Eating Records

Sleater-Kinney | The Center Won’t Hold | Mom + Pop

Slugger | Is Real | Self-released

Sole & DJ Pain 1 | No God Nor Country | Black Box Tapes

somesurprises | s/t | Drawing Room Records

Spirettes | Esoteria | Self-released
An ethereal distillation of deep yearning and determination.

SRSQ | Temporal Love/Unkept | Dais Records

Stonefield | Bent | Flightless

Strange Ranger | Remembering The Rockets | Tiny Engines

Studded Left | Popular Intuition | S/L INTNL.
Psychedelic post-punk portraits of life and love in our dystopic USA.

Summer Cannibals | Can’t Tell Me No | Tiny Engines

SunnO))) | Life Metal and Pyroclasts | Southern Lord

Swans | leaving meaning. | Young God

Tacocat | This Mess Is A Place | Sub Pop

Telefon Tel Aviv | Dreams Are Not Enough | Ghostly International

The Coathangers | The Devil You Know | Suicide Squeeze

The Hecks | My Star | Trouble In Mind Records

The Ocean Blue | Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves | Korda Records

The Paranoyds | Carnage Bargain | Suicide Squeeze

The Stargazer Lilies | Occabot | Rad Cult

The Twilight Sad | It Won/t Be Like This All the Time | Rock Action
The sound of a valiant struggle against existential failure.

The Vanilla Milkshakes | Punching Cows | Self-released
Humorous and heartfelt pop grunge odes to perpetual outsider status.

Total Trash | Field Guide | Self-released
Melancholic, post-psychedelic, slowcore, glitter jams.

Turvy Organ | The Ghost at the Feast | GROUPHUG

Tyler The Creator | Igor | Columbia
Dense, gritty, hazy beats and meta-exploration of identity as human and artist.

We Are Not a Glum Lot | The Price of Simply Existing | Self-released
Gripping, emo-inflected, math-y, post-punk bummercore.

Weeping Icon | s/t | Fire Talk
Cathartic, thorny, darkwave doom garage.

Whipporwill | The Nature of Storms | Self-released

Wreck and Reference | Absolute Still Life | The Flenser

Xeno & Oaklander | Hypnos | Dais Records
Heavy/heavenly techno for the dance club on Mount Olympus.

Xiu Xiu | Girl with Basket of Fruit | Polyvinyl

Zealot | The Book of Ramifications | Self-released

Best Shows in Denver 2/13/20 – 2/18/20

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The New Pornographers perform at the Gothic Theatre on February 15

Thursday | February 13

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Serpentfoot circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Serpentfoot, Plastic Daggers and Fern Roberts
When: Thursday, 2.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Serpentfoot is a Fort Collins-based psychedelic garage rock band kind of in the realm of boogie blues and fuzzy surf rock. Plastic Daggers could be considered a punk band because it has that arch and brass energy and attitude. But with a bass and drums with dual vocals its sound is refreshingly spare yet maximalist. This is the debut show from Fern Roberts, the new band of former Emerald Siam, Overcasters and Light Travels Faster bass player Todd Spriggs.

Friday | February 14

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Chella And The Charm circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Chella and the Charm w/Jen Korte & The Loss, White Rose Motor Oil, Jackie Zubrzycki, Erika Ryann
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is an event called Sweethearts of the Rodeo and features some of Denver’s greatest female-led bands. Chella and the Charm may perform some of its songs more about relationships and love but it’s never simplistic, rote pop Americana platitudes. Chella’s incisive mind poetically peels apart the zeitgeist and presents the strugges and joys with a rare poetic insight. Jen Korte is one of the most versatile and hard-working musicians in Denver whose dynamic songwriting expands the genres and styles in which she chooses to operate.

What: Bianca Mikahn, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and Shockermom
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A showcase for some of the best and most imaginative hip-hop artists in Denver at the moment. Bianca Mikahn’s noise experiments and soundscapes paired with her poetry is always a surprisingly compelling combination. R A R E B Y R D $ breaks hearts and heals minds with their dense beats and passionate vocals and wordplay. Pears and Perils is like if Bjork went more lushly downtempo and did hip-hop. Shockermom fuses emotionally vibrant jazz vocals with ambient hip-hop and one of the best things you’ll see all month.

What: Silversun Pickps w/Eliza & The Delusionals
When: Friday, 2.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Cheap Perfume, Flora De La Luna and The Yellnats
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Colorado Springs-based political punk band Cheap Perfume puts the fun into caustic send-ups of the misogynist aspects of American culture.

Saturday | February 15

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Mattiel, photo by Jason Travis

What: Lloyd Cole
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill
Why: Lloyd Cole came to prominence in the 80s as the lead singer of the great jangle pop band The Commotions. But by the turn of the decade he had gone solo but still writing thought-provoking songs though in a slightly different style suitable to his poetic imagination. In that way he followed a similar path to Robyn Hitchcock when he left The Soft Boys. One of the criminally underknown songwriting greats of our era. Currently touring following the 2019 release of his latest album Guesswork.

What: The New Pornographers w/Diane Coffee
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: There’s always been something orchestral to The New Pornographers’ spacious pop songs. Like something assembled in a studio in the late 60s with Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks but with a modern set of musical ideas and instincts. Its 2019 album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights also highlights how despite the grandeur of its creative vision its songs manage to seem like glimpses into intimate moments of vulnerable, existential contemplation.

What: Mattiel w/Calvin Love
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mattiel has a knack for taking surreal everyday situations and turn them into synth pop epics. Her 2019 album Satis Factory does some sonic time traveling between early 60s girl group and Connie Frances-esque melodies, late 70s New Wave pop wiry energy and a contemporary ironic tone. But her delivery doesn’t feel jaded or detached, just playing with the songwriting format to comment on culture and society in a way that uses nostalgic elements to speak of the present in the past tense.

What: Pictureplane w/ DEBR4H and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Former Denverite Pictureplane jokingly coined the term “witch house” around a decade ago. But his own music transcends such easy categorization as a mélange of hip-hop, glitch pop and noise.

What: Sango w/Savon and Dante ThatGuy
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Eigengrau, Night of Dark Light, Causer and Human Consumption
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Sunday | February 16

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Pinegrove, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Bernie Sanders Rally
When: Sunday, 2.16, 4 p.m.
Where: Colorado Convention Center
Why: For anyone what wants to go and see the current frontrunner in the primaries for the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate for the office of President of the United States.

What: Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Lorelai K and Faces Under the Mirror
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party if keeping the torch alive for darkwave in Dallas at its base of operations Funeral Home before moving to Los Angeles this fall. The band’s 2019 album MARTYR is reminiscent of a melding of Clan of Xymox, Xmal Deutschland and the more glam end of of Concrete Blonde.

What: Darpabong EP release and final show w/The Plastic Rakes and Secret Mormon
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Darpabong is finally releasing its debut EP leaked in 2019 at this show. The “Stoner Doom Dub” band includes members of Gort Vs. Goom so even if this final show is a bit of a goof the music will be legit.

What: Pinegrove w/Whitney Ballen
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pinegrove is currently touring in support of its latest album Marigold. The record is its most focused effort to date conveying a sense of space and simplicity with interlocking, textured tones lending the songs a complexity not immediately obvious. The record comes out in the wake of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall’s undergoing therapy and other work following a 2017 allegation of sexual coercion as outlined in a 2018 article on Pitchfork by Jenn Pelly. If turmoil produces better art, perhaps Hall’s efforts at becoming a better person have lead to a good deal of creative clarity as well.

Tuesday | February 18

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The Jungle Giants, photo by Jesper Hede

What: The Jungle Giants w/Little Image
When: Tuesday, 2.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Jungle Giants from Brisbane, Australia combine an R&B and soul sensibility into its jaunty pop songs. Its music videos suggest an aesthetic informed by independent film and Kurt Vonnegut. Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Quiet Ferocity, in 2019 and 2020 it released singles “Heavy Hearted” and “Sending Me Ur Loving” respectively so on this tour expect to hear new material before it appears on the band’s next record.

Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver 12/13/19 – 12/17/19

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Angel Olsen performs at Gothic Theatre December 14 and 15, photo by Cameron McCool

Friday | December 13

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Tourist, photo by David Ellis

What: Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.

What: Princess Dewclaw w/Demoncassettecult, Savage Bass Goat, Techno Allah and $addy
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Nova Fest 7: Fathers, Sorry No Sympathy, The Burial Plot, Cheap Perfume and Saving Verona 
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Landgrabbers, Octopus Tree, The Pollution and Electric Condor
When: Friday, 12.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

What: Moral Law, Disposal Notice, Thieves Guild, Pontius Pilate
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Black Dots, Surrender Signal, No Comma, Good Family
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Deep Club Presents: Ash Lauryn
When: Friday, 12.13, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Saturday | December 14

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Lot Lizard, photo by James Dean

What: Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.

What: Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.

What: Khemmis w/Wayfarer and UN
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: King Cardinal w/Corsicana and Bellhoss
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 15

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Plaid circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford
When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.

What: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Sunday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Tuesday | December 17

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Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Empath w/American Culture and Reposer
When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.

Best Shows in Denver 11/29/19-12/4/19

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Cheap Perfume performs on November 30 at Hi-Dive, photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Friday | November 29

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Black Mountain circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Black Mountain w/Ryley Walker
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Mountain is one of a handful of bands that was associated with 2000s “stoner rock” that evolved past and beyond the tropes of that genre. Probably because from the beginning the psychedelic end of its sound was more developed than some other bands that were essentially making a form of what’s now called “drone metal.” But even at the beginning, with its 2005 self-titled debut, the band wrote heavy songs with an ethereal tonal architecture like “Heart of Snow.” The group’s 2019 album Destroyer is its first with former Sleepy Sun guitarist/vocalist Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem of Soft Kill. It sounds like it has more extensive use of synthesizer than previous albums and thus having more in common with obvious influences like Hawkwind and Can. Live the new direction for the band has been more immersive and hypnotic without sacrificing its rock and roll punch, a testament to its integration of its musical instincts and incorporation of even more of Jeremy Schmidt’s transporting synth work which he used to great effect on the soundtrack to dark science fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow under his moniker Sinoia Caves.

What: High On Fire w/Power Trip, Devil Master and Creeping Death
When: Friday, 11.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental, Theater

What: Automatic w/Sweetness Itself and Chrome Wave
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Babah Fly, Ill Se7en, Zanib
When: Friday, 11.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy

What: Catching Flies w/Chitchat, Sifts and Chromadrift
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Saturday | November 30

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Plasma Canvas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cheap Perfume Burn It Down album release, SPELLS, Plasma Canvas and Wild Lives
When: Saturday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cheap Perfume is the Colorado Springs-based punk band who make no bones about their feminist political orientation but that really should be part of anyone’s agenda in the modern world and a centerpiece of any human who claims to have morality, ethics, basic human decency and concern for human rights as part of their perspective on the world. But Cheap Perfume makes it fun with pointed songs that while sometimes snarky are heartfelt and clever but with no fence sitting. Its new album, Burn It Down, is being released this night with some of the Mile High City’s best punk acts sharing the stage for the occasion.

Tuesday | December 3

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The Allah-Las circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Allah-Las w/Mapache & Tim Hill
When: Tuesday, 12.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In the rush to cop the 60s and early 70s southern California sound in the past half decade and more so many bands seem to have mimicked those Laurel Canyon artists outright. Allah-Las dipped into a similar pool of references but didn’t forget to write great songs or to inject that with modern sensibilities. Its soundscapes are paired well with entrancing melodies and not merely indie rock with some reverb and chorus and a laid back vibe. Its 2019 album LAHS is typically introspective and expansive with more than a dash of playfulness.

Wednesday | December 4

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Men I Trust, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Sporehive, Fables of the Fall, Babushka’s Naughty XXXmas Carols, DJ Andy Z
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month will include experimental drone collective Sporehive, chamber folk quartet Fables of the Fall, Babushka of Little Fyodor & Babushka fame doing her Naughty XXXmas Carols and DJ Andy Z spinning tunes.

What: Turnover & Men I Trust w/Renata Zeiguer
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some. Currently touring in support of its lushly downtempo 2019 album Oncle Jazz.

Best Shows in Denver 6/27/19 – 7/3/19

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Earth performs June 27 at The Marquis Theater, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | June 27

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Earth w/Helms Alee
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Earth is as much an influential and pioneering drone metal band as it is an avant-garde blues folk group imbued with mystical overtones. It’s 2019 album Full Upon Her Burning Lips finds the trio channeling more than the usual measure of its crawling, Black Sabbath-esque gloom. Seeing the live show it’s always fascinating to see how Adrienne Davies moves in an orchestrated string of slow sweeping moves and fast, accenting flourishes as Dylan Carlson and their collaborators of the moment drone with a smoky fluidity.

What: Meet the Giant, The Jinjas, Monty O’Blivion and Zealot
When: Thursday, 06.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Zealot would be a Mountain Goats cover band but Luke Hunter James-Erickson would find that too rote so he injects his own eclectic tastes into the songwriting. Recently released the “Snake Goddess” single, a typically eccentric, high energy, angular indie rock gem. Meet the Giant, informed by electronic music and hip-hop beat-making, write and perform deeply evocative, brooding rock songs that maybe now would overlap with the whole darkwave thing except that Meet the Giant often crosses over into the realm of hard rock in a way most of those bands don’t.

What: Cholo Goth Night featuring Dave Parley of Prayers
When: Thursday, 06.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Just like it says, Cholo Goth Night at Streets Denver with Dave Parley of Cholo Goth and spinning Darkwave and Goth for the evening. When this event happens in the Los Angeles area and select other cities Parley brings in other darkwave musicians of note to guest a set but not for tonight.

Friday | June 28

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Blue October, photo by Chris Barber

What: The Kinky Fingers w/Vic N’ the Narwhals and Colfax Speed Queen
When: Friday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Now that the Denver “party rock” scene has withered away and garage psych/surf is going the way of pop punk in the early 2000s only the strong and more interesting survive. In the case of these three bands it’s partly because their songwriting was always good and their individual sounds not so susceptible to the blowout of trendiness. Each has also evolved.

What: Tyto Alba and Steele Douglas
When: Friday, 06.28, 5 p.m.
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Why: Tyto Alba is always surprisingly evocative with music coming from the tender places of the psyche and coloring the tones in warm, incandescent tones and hypnotic rhythms. Seeing them on a rooftop while a thunderstorm threatens to hover in but never does? Seems symbolic and entirely appropriate.

What: Blue October w/Mona
When: Friday, 06.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Blue October has been around for nearly a quarter of a century now and its career has crossed over from the old way of major labels and the album release cycle to the modern mess and disarray of the industry now that offers bands to connect directly to an audience more so than ever before but to earn far less for their efforts. That the group has weathered that period is impressive itself. Oddly enough its own style of power pop seemingly inspired by late 80s proto-alternative rock like Icehouse and The Outfield and their dramatic presentation of being a bit on the outs of true emotional fulfillment but yearning for that special connection with another human with music that is a little too triumphant in tone and uplifting to be sad bastard music. But Blue October didn’t stay trapped in a past style and its newer music reflects a diversity of newer influences.

What: Primal Birth: Hotpiss, Drume, Eyeface, Padfut, Worldwide Dungeon, DJ 7 Heads
When: Friday, 06.28, 10 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A bit of a weirdo underground techno show that starts late and goes late like a rave.

Saturday | June 29

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PUP, photo by Vanessa Heins

What: Westword Music Showcase
When: Saturday, 06.29, 12 p.m.
Where: Golden Triangle Neighborhood
Why: This is the longest running music festival of its type in Denver. Held on just one day in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near the Westword offices off Tenth Ave and Broadway, it is arguably the most concise way all year to see a broad spectrum of the local scene without having to walk too far. This year’s line-up includes several of the local luminaries. Here is a list of see-if-you-can acts at each of the stages and a given set time. Tastes will vary and I’m certainly no expert on big chunks of the local music world.

Breckenridge Brewery Stage
12:25 YaSi
6:10 Jai Wolf

White Claw Stage
7:20 CHVRCHES

Vinyl Main
12:50 Techno Allah
2:30 Erin Stereo

#vybe
12:50 Venus Cruz
6:40 Lady Gang
7:30 RARE BYRD$

Stoney’s Main
12:35 Gora Gora Orkestar
5:35 Wes Watkins
7:15 Roka Hueka
8:05 Los Mocochetes

Bar Standard
12:50 Hail Satan
2:30 Ghosts of Glaciers
5:50 Fathers
6:40 Plasma Canvas
7:30 Cheap Perfume

Temple/Mirus Gallery
3:20 Starjammer

Stoney’s South
1:40 Brianna Straut
2:30 Bevin Luna
5:50 Florea

The Church
12:00 eHpH
2:30 Ramakhandra
5 Vic n’ the Narwhals
5:50 Spirettes
6:40 The Hollow

100% Agave
1:40 Bret Sexton
5:50 Los Dog Ensemble
6:40 The Maybe So’s
7:30 Joshua Trinidad Trio

What: PUP w/Ratboys and Beach Bunny
When: Saturday, 06.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: PUP started making waves a handful of years ago outside its hometown of Toronto, Ontario among aficionados of pop punk and emo who missed that brashly confessional style of songwriting before the music hit maximum saturation level in the early-to-mid 2000s. When the band began in 2010 a quasi-movement was under way across the North American continent in making fun, melodic punk that was raw and expressive. With PUP and others the key difference was embracing the relatively unrefined side of that songwriting and how that opened possibilities for the music to go where it will rather than fall directly in a worn out style. This has given PUP’s songwriting a freshness that even if at first it seems completely within the realm of standard pop punk. Its new record, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, arguably its best to date, revealed the influence of the more vital garage punk and 2000s lo-fi noise rock on its sound. Like the Reatards and perhaps No Age. Its irreverent spirit and deft local cultural references that are relatable to people who experience similar social phenomena in their own cities makes for a consistently endearing listen.

What: Luxury Hearse, Timelord SFX and blank human
When: Saturday, 06.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Luxury Hearse combines the forces of blank human’s ambient/noise sound sculpting and Psychic Secretary’s beat-driven experimental electronic music. What to call it? Some might think industrial because of its sometimes sharp edges but it’s more in the vein of edgier yet dream-like dance music.

What: 5th Annual Colorado Goth Fest: Suicide Commando and Læther Strip w/Offerings to Odin, The Union, The Midnight Marionettes, eHpH and WitchHands
When: Saturday, 06.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This edition of the Colorado Goth Fest features headliners who are significant and one might say pioneering artists in the realm of EBM with Suicide Commando and Læther Strip. The local acts are a fairly diverse group as well including death rock band WitchHands from Colorado Springs and Denver’s own EBM/electro-post-punk duo eHpH.

What: Blue October w/Mona ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/369899
When: Saturday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: For Blue October see above for 6.28.

Monday | July 1

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Culture Abuse circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Culture Abuse w/Tony Molina, Young Guy, Dare, Regional Justice Center and Cadaver Dog
When: Monday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Culture Abuse has big melodic hooks for a band that came up through the milieu of garage punk. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream greatly expanded its range as a band both tonally, dynamically and emotionally as it’s informed by a sensitivity to the inevitability of the death of those close to you and a wry sense of humor and irony. After all Culture Abuse has a song called “Dave’s Not Here (I Got The Stuff Man)” referencing the classic Cheech & Chong skit. While there’s plenty of wiry punk energy behind the material, especially live, it’s really more of a great power pop record. Tony Molina got started in music playing in hardcore bands but his solo work is more in line with jangle pop and C86 with a sprinkling of The Byrds. His own 2018 record Kill the Lights wouldn’t have been out of place in the same musical realm as Teenage Fanclub circa 1992. Except with more folk-inflected, introspective songwriting throughout.

What: Muscle Beach, Buildings (MN) and Simulators
When: Monday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Buildings form Minneapolis is a vital cross between a math-y noise rock and post-hardcore. Muscle Beach is of similar mind but its own version of post-hardcore is a splintery assault on the senses that drags you down emotional pathways that purge angst and personal darkness – all done with a cathartic sense of joy. Simulators are an angular noise rock duo whose music is both cutting and unhinged yet mathematically precise. It’s always an interesting contrast.

Wednesday | July 3

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Total Trash, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Bud Bronson + the Good Timers, The Right Here, Bad Licks, DJ Sara Splatter
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bud Bronson + The Good Timers are always surprisingly good. Its earnest power pop sounds like it’s of today but has a quality and a vibe that is reminiscent of the stories and sentiments one heard in the music of late 70s/early 80s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Also on the bill is Bad Licks who somehow do a kind of psychedelic blues rock that is legitimate and high energy because good songwriting transcends pre-conceptions.

What: Weird Wednesdayl: Total Trash, Pretty Loud, Klaus Dafoe
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl
Why: Total Trash is a band comprised of luminaries of Denver’s indie rock scene going back nearly two decades and yet it’s not all middle aged people. If you remember Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Lil’ Slugger, it’s people from those bands. It’s psychedelic, shoegaze-y jangle pop is transporting yet relatable and down to earth. Klaus Dafoe is an instrumental band that collides together 2000s math rock, weirdo punk and indie pop for a sound that is familiar yet unusual.

What: Pale Sun, Palehorse/Palerider, Random Temple and Grass
When: Wednesday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Palehorse/Palerider’s drummer Nathan Marcy said to bring earplugs. Good idea, because his own group is the kind of doom/shoegaze/dark desert psych band that makes beautifully dark, atmospheric, consciousness expanding music with ritual/tribal flourishes that is, yes, in fact, quite loud. In good company with gritty psych band Grass and Pale Sun. The latter’s dreamy yet dense rock music will take you to a different psychological space than the one with which you walked into the show. Includes former members of Bright Channel, Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Best Shows in Denver 01/18/19 – 01/23/19

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Cursive performs January 18 at The Bluebird Theater and January 19 at The Fox Theatre. Photo by JP Davis

Friday | January 18, 2019

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The Crystal Method, photo by Chapman Baehler

Who: The Crystal Method w/Yoko b2b iAM_Jacko and Skeena
When: Friday, 01.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: In the 90s The Crystal Method blurred any boundaries that may have existed between various subgenres of electronic music of the time. Rather than specialists, The Crystal Method freely experimented with forms, styles and genres yet crafted a sound of their own with an emphasis on strong beats and a grittily otherworldly, moody atmospherics. The duo’s 2018 record The Trip Home is proof that it hasn’t spent the past two decades insisting its initial vision should dictate the rest of its music while also borrowing heavily from methods and sounds from the past and during the intervening years. If a big beat industrial synth pop album was a thing, The Crystal Method made one.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Friday, 01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hot Rize, the Colorado-based bluegrass band, is celebrating four decades together with a pair of shows at The Boulder Theater. Its members were hanging out and working at the Denver Folklore Center in the 1970s and learning the craft and methods of that music before essentially popularizing bluegrass to an ever widening audience from the 1980s onward. Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, Hot Rize’s aesthetic of what Nick Forster called “human sized music” impacted the aesthetic of the music on A Prairie Home Companion—old timey music for an era where bigger, louder, better, less elegant seemed to be the order of the day beyond even music. Even if bluegrass isn’t your thing, Hot Rize is an especially compelling live band whose good humor and sheer charisma always makes for an enjoyable performance.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Cursive is one of the bands that put Omaha, Nebraska on the musical map as a place from which noteworthy music was being made. By the time the group garnered more than underground and regional prominence it had evolved its sound out of its early post-hardcore roots and incorporated a diverse set of musical ideas and sounds that proved influential on 2000s indie rock with raw emotions placed in the context of vibrant, atmospheric sounds and textures to give the band’s songs an immersive, even cinematic feel. The quartet’s latest, Vitriola, is vintage Cursive in all its haunted, orchestral, emotionally heightened glory. Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon is one of the few newer bands making rock music that’s difficult to pigeonhole to a specific subgenre bandwagoned in the past five to seven years as its not garage rock, not surf rock, not neo-grunge and not psychedelia. And all the better for it. Fuzzy, lively pop songs.

Who: Corsicana album release w/The Milk Blossoms, These Bashful Claws, John Lensing
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Dream pop band Corsicana drops its debut album at this show—the sparkling, gentle yet uplifting Perennial.

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Future Generations, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Magic City Hippies w/Future Generations
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Magic City Hippies at least have a name that gives a clue what you’re in for. Its posi-hip-hop-inflected funk and downtempo pop is what you would hope New Age-esque hippies might glom onto after getting tired of de-fanged EDM and jamtronica. Opening act, Future Generations, came to their lush and layered songwriting through the production angle early on when singer/programmer Eddie Gore was making beats for friends and his own early experiments in music. As the band came together and brought in ideas and instruments the fledgling band was able to build and learn together without the overt influence of previous bands. Thus its pop songcraft while accessible is clearly coming from a direction where the band is consistently absorbing new sounds and methods so that the band’s creative evolution is part of its act of writing songs. The Future Generations 2018 album Landscape may sound like a solid, buoyant pop album, because it is, but there are plenty of sonic Easter eggs in there for discerning listeners.

Saturday | January 19, 2019

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Chella and the Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella & The Charm w/Jennifer Jane Niceley, The Threadbarons (duo) and Many Mountains
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Chella & the Charm’s forthcoming EP Good Gal is the heartbreaking work of Americana genius you need to have in your life in 2019. Chella has identified several strands of our collective pain as a culture and manifested them in a handful of songs with energy and compassion.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: See January 18 entry on Cursive and Summer Cannibals.

Who: Womxn’s March Mosh III: Bonnie Weimer, The Pollution, Lady of Sorrows, Death in Space, Cheap Perfume, burlesque performance by Slut Game Strong
When: Saturday, 01.19, 3-8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: After the official Womxn’s March in Denver, this show will happen with proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood. It’s a chance to see experimental banjo songwriter Bonnie Weimer at 3 p.m. when the event starts followed by a diverse evening of music including psychedelic punk band The Pollution, operatic darkwave act Lady of Sorrows, guitar/production project Death in Space, political punk band Cheap Perfume and its delightfully irreverent sense of humor as well as a feminist burlesque performance from Slut Game Strong.

Who: City Hunter release of Deep Blood w/Death Scenes and DJ Dead Body and Yung Sherm
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Horror-themed, costumed hardcore band City Hunter will play one of its rare shows in support of the release of its 2018 LP Deep Blood on Youth Attack Records. Expect some serious hijinks on the performance side with what will also be a short set because the band’s longest songs are under three minutes with many under a minute. Fitting for a band whose lead singer looks like the masked killer from an early 80s slasher film. Opening is Death Scenes which is Scream Screen’s Theresa Mercado who will show morgue slides accompanied by music from Kevin Wesley of noise project Prison Glue.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: See January 18 entry for Hot Rize and its 40 year anniversary shows.

What: Punk Against Trump 2019 – Allout Helter, Cheap Perfume, Over Time, Sorry Sweetheart, No Takers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit
Why: Some of Colorado’s best, overtly political bands gather once again put on a show in protest against the POTUS Trump. But it won’t be a dour, didactic affair because all of these bands are about having fun and airing out legit social and political grievances.

Tuesday | January 22, 2019

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Oryx circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rockin’ For Roe: Oryx, Rotten Reputation and Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 01.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: “Roe” as in Roe v. Wade. This benefit show for Keep Abortion Safe and Women’s Freedom Fund features experimental doom band Oryx, irreverent and heartfelt punk band Rotten Reputation and industrial synth pop powerhouse Church Fire.

Wednesday | January 23, 2019

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Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ball of Light, Toboggan, Quits and Landgrabbers
When: Wednesday, 01.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Cincinnati’s Ball of Light just released its new album Flux on January 10, 2019. It’s ten tracks of urgent, feral, noisy post-hardcore sounds like what a hybrid of Neurosis and Season To Risk might sound like. Toboggan, not the Spanish band, is a bit like late 90s emo with hooks and coherent lyrics but not short on raw emotion. Quits is the noise rock band from Denver starring Doug “Fucking” Mioducki who used to be in early indie pop band Felt Pilotes before going on to way less melodic but no less emotionally charged bands like Koala, Sparkles, Witch Doctor and CP-208. His bandmates are also noteworthy musicians from other great Denver bands but you can do some homework if you feel like it.

Best Shows in Denver 12/20/18 – 12/23/18

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Sliver performs Friday, December 21, at The Marquis Theater

Thursday | December 20, 2018

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Cheap Perfume circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wild Lives w/Cheap Perfume, Bad Year and An Antiquated Bluff
When: Thursday, 12.20, 7 p.m
Where: Lost Lake
Why: It’s all rock bands of one stripe or another but at least it’s not all the same kind of rock band. Wild Lives is more of a straight-ahead rockist punk band and one that doesn’t mince words about where its political sentiments lie. It’s charming single “Fuck Sheriff Joe Arpaio” is up there with “Westboro Baptist Church” by I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House and that’s no faint praise. Cheap Perfume is also deft at such articulation of modern, principled, but not uselessly polite, outrage. For example “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis)” in the wake of, well, the “Greatest Generation’s” sacrifices be damned, the re-rise of fascist types in the USA and elsewhere. Bad Year is the local equivalent of a pop punk supergroup including former Pin Downs guitarist and Denver scene veteran extraordinaire Sara Fischer and Chuck Coffey of SPELLS guitarist/former member of Mail Order Children, Call Sign Cobra and more bands than most other people might join. And An Antiquated Bluff, the solo project of Josie Cool who has also spent time in multiple noteworthy punk and post-hardcore bands as well as a stint in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Is Josie is doing the songwriting it’s always worth your time.

Who: Television Generation, Mr. Atomic, The Rainbow Treatment
When: Monday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Oh sure 90s has reincarnated in the 2010s in various places but that seems less strange than the recent embrace of 60s and 70s music. At any rate, in Denver two of the best are Television Generation and Mr. Atomic. Both fuzzy, both tapping into grunge but in the case of TG, it’s in the context of well-crafted pop songs melded with a genuinely thorny angst and expunging of generational despair. Which we’ve not had enough of in such bracing doses in recent years. Mr. Atomic is able to summon similarly emotionally rich realms of sound but it’s songwriting bears signs of being influenced by the likes of Weezer and 90s pop punk before it departed nearly forever into wackdom by the turn of the century.

Friday | December 21, 2018

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Death in Space, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Equine, Evil Ear (IL), Death in Space, Felony Charge
When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: This a show that’s mostly ambient and avant-garde guitar drones. Equine is former Motheater and Epileptinomicon guitarist Kevin Richards’ solo guitar and electronics project wherein he explores various aspects of soundscaping and composition. Evil Ear is chill electronic soundscapes and sonic textures in the context of what sounds like loop manipulation. Death in Space is…supposedly quite different from the rest of her musical career in which Aleeya Wilson uses guitar and loops to make an abstract kind of punk and experimental guitar rock and noise. If her all synth project Spargob is any analog it’ll be interesting either way. Felony Charge sounds like a weirder kind of deathgrind band.

Who: Sliver w/Stereoshifter, AFD (Amazing Flying Dumbasses), Swamp Rats and Bert Olsen
When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: This is a donation based show to benefit Sox Place and Urban Peak, two non-profits that aid homeless youth. For the bill, Chris Mercer of punk/grunge-esque band Sliver brought together other artists who feel as strongly as he does about homelessness in our community. Mercer himself spent some time homeless and has a direct experience of what might actually help homeless young people and the homeless in general not just out of that experience but also in getting out of homelessness with humanity compassion and understanding. Fortunately, the bill is a great cross-section of the better punk and rock acts in Denver out of the underground playing a more commercial venue with a robust sound system so yes, a benefit show, but one that one would want to go to in order to experience some of the best bands Denver has to offer.

Who: Jade Cicada and Detox Unit w/Craftal, Schmoop, visuals from Steven Haman and B1n4ry
When: Friday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Jade Cicada aka Skyler Golden is performing this event alongside Detox Unit. Both artists are very much of the moment in terms of more experimental electronic dance music with some of the affectations one might expect from someone who had eclectic tastes and musical instincts developing out of that scene in the 2000 and 2010s. But one also hears elements of UK garage and the sample-based composition of underground hip-hop artists and the like from the late 90s and early 2000s. As with the latter, the free association use of bits of music to create new emotional resonances in the recontexualization of the familiar alongside original content.

Saturday | December 22, 2018

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Telefon Tel Aviv, photo courtesy artist’s management

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/GILA and Stratusphere
When: Saturday, 12.22, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis probably plays to much larger audiences as a contributor to the live versions of Puscifer and Nine Inch Nails. But with Telefon Tel Aviv, which he formed in 1999 with the late Charles Cooper, Eustis has been making some of the more fascinatingly detailed and textured IDM of the past twenty years. Eustis hasn’t released a full album since 2009’s Immolate Yourself, which predated Cooper’s untimely death that January, but his multiple collaborations and remixes since that time are noteworthy as they are sparse including wortk with Lusine, Vatican Shadow, SONOIO and These Hidden Hands. As Eustis, he’s had a role in the 2013 Nine Inch Nails album Hesitation Marks and The Black Queen’s 2016 album Fever Daydream. But for this show you’ll get to see the brilliant kind of minimalist techno/IDM that helped establish him as an artist of note.

Who: Barf Fest III: RL Cole & The Hell You Say, Fast Eddy, Love Gang, Colfax Speed Queen, Palo Santo, Mike Rose & The Early Mornings
When: Saturday, 12.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Barf magazine is an irregularly released publication that showcases what some might see as low culture aesthetics in Denver but done with such humor, care and consideration for the underground music and art scene in Denver that it could never be dismissed. This third festival showcasing the kinds of bands from the realms of local psychedelic garage rock and blues is easily one of the best slices of that side of the Denver scene that has happened all year.

Sunday | December 23, 2018

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Faceman circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faceman’s Parade of Lights feat. Tivoli Club Brass Band and Sirens of the North
When: Sunday, 12.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Steve “Faceman” can be relied upon to come up with a ridiculous yet beautiful concept for a show on the regular. Someone should catalog all the creative ideas, sculptures and sets, and the unlikely legit execution of his ideas someday in a book. Like the 100 Year Storm show of 2016 in which he brought in some 100 bands to play the Oriental Theater in early November of that year. Difficult to say exactly what will make up his own version of The Parade of Lights so best to see for yourself. Whatever the exact concept it will be entertaining.

Best Shows in Denver 11/15/18 – 11/20/18

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Gouge Away performs at the Hi-Dive on Friday, November 16, 2018. Photo by Ron Yamasaki

Thursday | November 15, 2018

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Daughters, photo by Reid Haithcock

Who: Daughters w/Echo Beds
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When noise/experimental rock band Daughters reunited in 2013 there was no guarantee the group would do more than play a limited number of shows before going on hiatus again. Its first attempt at a record was scrapped because it didn’t feel, according to vocalist Lex Marshall, authentic to what the band was about. Its music was confrontational and visceral, executed with a savage precision and it didn’t fit too well into the boxes in which the group was often thrown: grindcore, math rock, art-metal, post-hardcore. Daughters bridged the gap between the disorientingly surreal and amped emotional immediacy. Its 2018 record You Won’t Get What You Want pushes the band’s sound into greater vistas of experimentation with its core sound, coming upon what sounds like some forgotten chapter of an industrial, post-punk and noise hybrid from the 80s. The words and the sounds of the record, however are very much of the now with a world teetering on the brink of chaos, a darkly liminal period that might make for the perfect backdrop to a J.G. Ballard novel. That Echo Beds, which recently released its own similarly-minded record, Buried Language, will open the show and set the stage for the sonic mayhem to follow.

Who: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin created some of the most iconic horror movie soundtracks of all time having done those for Dario Argento’s Deep Red as well as the European release of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But perhaps the group’s crowning musical achievement was the score for Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror classic Suspiria. The haunting music and unsettling vocalizations (often done by Simonetti himself) was the perfect companion to a movie not short on rich color and deeply affecting atmosphere. This version of Goblin lead by Simonetti will perform the soundtrack live during a screening of Suspiria with what Simonetti jokes about as Goblin’s other “greatest” hits following the film.

Who: Galleries, Grass and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 11.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: There was a time not so long ago that Denver had, to put it charitably, way too many “psych rock” bands in the trendy mold. But lurking around in that world and a step or more apart from it were bands developing decidedly in their own directions while still rooted somewhat in the realm of psychedelic rock. Wild Call’s gritty, atmospheric, emotionally-charged songs seem like something from another era when subgenre’s didn’t matter so much as ethos and approach, finding your own voice rather than operating in a style even if you pulled from various styles in your songwriting but having something meaningful to say and an interesting way to say it. Grass borrowed a bit of that warped warble from My Bloody Valentine but sounds more like it learned a lot about edgy and nearly unraveled sounds from some of the more blustery bands on Siltbreeze in the 2000s like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe a few nods in the direction of the Reatards. A maximalist lo-fi. Galleries is more like a band re-imagining classic rock through the lens of the influence of grunge and 2000s garage rock so it sure does sound a little different from any of that.

Friday | November 16, 2018

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Escort, photo by Tom Edwards

Who: The Flux Crew in concert
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Pine Street Church Boulder 1237 Pine Street
Why: Dino J.A. Dean will be the conductor of this fifteen piece ensemble that will engage in, according to the Facebook event page “real time collaborative composition.” What this means is essentially improv in the overlapping contexts of jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde. The musicians performing come from a broad spectrum of local artists from noise, jazz, classical, funk, folk, rock etc. all sonically synergizing toward a mutual musical goal. Dean’s illustrious career in theater, jazz, punk, dance and experimental music of a broad stripe from when he was in funk bands in the Los Angeles area, working as a sideman for Ike and Tina Turner and in the 80s playing trombone controlled synthesizer in the 80s with Jon Hassell. Dean has also worked with the late jazz great Butch Morris, acclaimed playright/actor/director Sam Shepard and modern dance choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. To name a few. Dean will bring that experience in collaborating with other artists in guiding the proceedings in this unique performance with his musical group The Flux Crew.

Who: Gouge Away, Drug Church, Heart Attack Man and Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is an hardcore band from Albany, NY, but one that isn’t on the nostalgia trip that some hardcore has been on in recent years. Drug Church has more in common with IDLES from the UK whose own expansively sonic songs tackle personal and social issues with an unbeatable combination of wry wit and sheer emotional intensity. Gouge Away from Fort Lauderdale has been making some of the most powerfully compelling punk of the last few years. But, and especially on its 2018 album Burnt Sugar, Gouge Away brings a particularly imaginative approach to its headlong rush of energy by not just writing most songs with the same dynamic, injecting atmosphere into its sustained bursts of fiery noise. In that way it has more in common with 90s noisy punk bands like Unwound and Karp. Unabashedly political, minus any boring didactic perspectives, Gouge Away is one of the bands keeping punk relevant a quarter a decade after it seemed to have been co-opted by the mainstream.

Who: The Motet w/Escort
When: Friday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Motet is celebrating its twentieth year as a band in 2018. Founded by drummer/arranger Dave Watts, the group’s blend of Afrobeat, jazz and funk may be something one would expect from a band from Boulder but it’s also surprisingly fresh and the musicianship legitimately respectable. Also joining the veteran Colorado band is Escort from Brooklyn. Like-minded in some ways, Escort performs music that one can trace roots to back to when 70s funk and disco met in fruitful rather than laughable ways. Think more in the vein of Commodores and Chic but updated after American musicians absorbed European influences and the resurgence of jazz reclaimed from academia and the ossified old commercial jazz market. The Motet performs same time same venue on Saturday, November 17 The Motet but with with Cory Wong who will include special guest Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck in the line up.

Saturday | November 17, 2018

J Mascis
J Mascis, photo courtesy Sub Pop

Who: Wax Trax Fortieth Anniversary w/Slugger
When: Saturday, 11.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Wax Trax might be the longest running record/music store in the Denver metropolitan area. While music stores might be considered a bit of an anachronism today they still serve an important function as a place to discover stuff you may not know about without the awkwardness of algorithms making suggestions based on what you view on a website. They are also places where you can meet other humans who might have a shared interest and where one might encounter something as quaint as a flyer for a show for bands you know nothing about and might find interesting. Also, not all local bands worth your time have a robust, easily found online presence. Besides, what music fan doesn’t enjoy organically finding something by browsing and not having something specific in mind? Wax Trax has been more than that. It has employed local musicians, one of its owners, Duane Davis, wrote incisive music reviews and other articles for several years and he and others at Wax Trax were involved in the local imprint Local Anaesthetic which put out records by some of the best punk and post-punk bands of the 80s. With the documentary about the store and the label that emerged out of that when the store’s founders moved to Chicago having screened in Denver last weekend it only seemed reasonable to have the actual celebration of the store’s first forty years at the Mercury Café. In the 80s both businesses were neighbors on 13th Avenue and Mercury Café was a hub for live, underground music—the relationship was somewhat synergistic. While there may not be a lot of live music for this event, aside from the psychedelic rock band Slugger fronted by current Wax Trax employee Gabriel Abelo, some of the memorabilia and stories shared will be worth attending to witness.

Who: J Mascis w/James Elkington
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: J Mascis is rightfully known as the influential guitar shredder extraordinaire of influential rock band Dinosaur Jr. His buried vocals amidst blistering yet melodic songs turned out to be perfectly capable of laid back utterances that articulated the feelings and thoughts of someone that was checked out of the sanitized insipidity of much of 80s popular culture, offering an alternative, more personal, and ultimately more truthful perspective of living as a kind of weirdo in Reagan’s/Bush’s America. Mascis wrote most of those songs and for years he’s established a solo career that parallels the subject matter he has explored with Dinosaur except he’s able to be more nuanced in his vocal delivery and in later years, his broad songwriting palette has become more obvious. The 2018 record Elastic Days is lush and eclectic with contributions from Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession, Miracle Legion’s Mark Mulcahy and Zoë Randell of Luluc. But on the road, and for this show, it’ll be J and what he describes as “a little fort around” himself of amps, various stands and other refinements. At Ophelia’s the intimacy of the room will surely make this a memorable show.

Who: Hive w/Weathered Statues, Rotstrotter, Aseethe and Vexing
When: Saturday, 11.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hive from Minneapolis is a melodic crust band not to be confused with the band HIVE from Chicago who are also from the Midwest and no strangers to blackened metal. So the excellent Denver-based crust/grind band Rotstrotter is a good fit on the bill as is the like-minded Vexing. Iowa’s Aseethe is a doom band and not too far removed from the same milieu of heavy music. Weathered Statues, though, are a dark, post-punk band whose musical DNA seems to include Xmal Deutschland, The Cure and DA! But there’s an undercurrent of dance rhythms that thankfully are nothing like what all these post-punk revival era “dance punk” bands were peddling. Just a clear sense of rhythm and pacing that draws you into the song as surely as its dusky atmosphere’s and Jennie Mather’s commanding vocals. Weathered Statues plays first and may confuse some people expecting all conventionally heavy music for the night.

Who: Municipal Waste w/Toxic Holocaust and Haunt
When: Saturday, 11.17, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: At a time when metalcore was reaching its apex, Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste was making the kind of crossover music that would come back into vogue again nearly a decade after its 2001 inception. For the uninitiated, that crossover meaning the kind of music that emerged around the mid-80s when bands like DRI, which may have started out as hardcore punk, fed into its metallic instincts and synthesized hardcore and thrash metal, which itself was informed by punk. Because it was an early re-adopter, Municipal Waste became a bit of a cult band. Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind was also someone who was tapping back into that crossover sound in the late 90s but injected into his songwriting some of the evil sound and brutality of black metal.

Sunday | November 18, 2018

Wrong_CourtesyRelapseRecords
Wrong, photo courtesy Relapse Records

Who: Wrong, Portrayal of Guilt, Abrams, False Cathedrals
When: Sunday, 11.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Wrong is the kind of noise rock band that probably wouldn’t have quite happened in the 90s or earlier. While the Unsane and Helmet influence is there giving the music a precise yet savage edge, one can hear the stretch of sounds into distended otherworldliness as though steeped in the industrial psychedelia of post-Twitch Ministry and the haunted sludge of pre-Superunknown Soundgarden. It also has a bit of the near hysteria catharsis one hears in Daughters. The band’s 2018 album Feel Good has positive intentions but the songs themselves are all about feeling bad and purging that low end of one’s life.

PortrayalOfGuilt_AdrianGlickman
Portrayal of Guilt, photo by Adrian Glickman

Portrayal of Guilt’s 2018 album Let Pain Be Your Guide is a nightmarish set of pronouncements about the acceptance of life’s seemingly unacceptable but all too real aspects. It’s not all relentless, grind-y hardcore because there’s a nuance of sounds and dynamics that give harsh and brutal music a fascinating dimensionality that makes what might be forbidding music to many an accessibility built on how relatable the lyrics really are in the current social and political climate worldwide. Many songwriters express well the pains of some aspects of existence, Portrayal of Guilt’s songs sound like a direct line to that experience in case anyone is confused.

Tuesday | November 20, 2018

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Japanese Wallpaper, photo by Giulia Giannini McGauran

Who: Shallou w/Japanese Wallpaper
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Japanese Wallpaper is Gab Strum who seems to be a bit of an electronic music prodigy. In 2014, when he was a mere 17 years old, his song “Breathe In (ft. Wafia)” was featured in Zach Braff’s film Wish I Was Here. Strum’s brightly ethereal compositions sound like the next two steps in the evolution of chillwave and informed by the same production methods born out of hip-hop that informed that musical movement. Soothing without being soporific, Strum’s songs would be perfect for when you want to take some time to contemplate something important with clarity of mood and mind. Some of his newer material like “Fooling Around” is celebratory yet introspective and reveals Sturm’s clear evolution as an artist into realms of music beyond the tranquil minimalism of his earlier offerings.

Who: Odonis Odonis w/Church Fire and Voight
When: Tuesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Odonis Odonis sounds like DAF reborn in the techno/rave scene of Detroit 90s. At least on its latest album, 2017’s ominously luminous No Pop. The duo is joined this night by two Denver bands whose own music embody a similar wedding of darkwave industrial beats and a masterful command of incorporating noise with the more electro-dance-oriented Church Fire whose cathartic live show never disappoints and the post-punk/dark techno band Voight who are arcing out of a long period of legit A Place to Bury Strangers worship into more fascinatingly beat-driven territory.

Wednesday | November 21, 2018

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Kyle Emerson, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kyle Emerson, Stelth Ulvang and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Kyle Emerson isn’t already making waves on the indie touring circuit, he should be soon. The veteran Denver songwriter has been paying serious dues for a few years now touring small clubs and venues across America. His psychedelic folk pop are imbued with emotional warmth and insight as heard most recently in recorded form on his 2017 full-length album Dorothy Alice. The album closer “Post Egomania” is a perfect way to sum up the emotional and spiritual journey of the rest of the album. For this homecoming show from his most recent tour Emerson will share the stage with Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers and one of Denver’s best indie rock bands, the not-so-obviously-but-unmistakably experimental Down Time.

Who: Reverb & The Verse
When: Wednesday, 11.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bonacquisti Wine
Why: Reverb & The Verse is one of the longer running hip-hop crews in Denver and one of the most diverse and boundary pushing in a way that’s difficult to say where the root of its music might lay beyond that of the breadth of palette that exists in hip-hop. Shane Etter, one of the band’s main producers from its early days is well-versed in a wide range of electronic music and recently did mastering on the 2018 album from literate documentarians of dystopian America, hip-hop duo Curta. Here is an infrequent opportunity to catch one of Denver’s finest live.