What:Michael McDonald w/Strange Americans When: Thursday, 07.18, 5:45 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens – York Street Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. This concludes his run of shows in Colorado over this past week.
What:Usnea, CHRCH, Zygrot and Limbwrecker When: Thursday, 07.18, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Kind of a funeral doom show at Rhino tonight w/Portland, Oregon’s funeral doom juggernauts Usnea and the transcendental occult feral drone of CHRCH from Sacramento.
Friday | July 19
What:We Are A Glum Lot and Spirettes dual album release w/Turvy Organ When: Friday, 07.19, 8 p.m. Where: Lulu’s Downstairs – Manitou Springs Why: Dream pop band Spirettes and neo-math-emo-indie rock band We Are Not a Glum Lot are releasing their new albums simultaneously this evening at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs. Spirettes’ album being Esoteria and We Are Not a Glum Lot’s titled The Price of Simply Existing.
What:Hammer’s House Party: MC Hammer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sisqo, Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew, The Funky Bunch When: Friday, 07.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: At this show you can party like it’s 1992 or 1999 depending on who you’re going to see. MC Hammer was ubiquitous in the early 90s with multiple hit songs that helped to put hip-hop into the mainstream. Sir Mix-a-Lot is perhaps best known for his hit song “Baby Got Back” but he was a big deal in Seattle before that and his records worth listening to generally for their swagger and sly and pointed humor. Biz Markie is a character in hip-hop who burst the boundaries of what was acceptable by owning being a little rough around the edges in his rapping and his outlandish performance persona. His 1989 song “Just a Friend” is a classic of the genre. 2 Live Crew traded in x-rated rap for years and garnered attention for its high profile lawsuit regarding its 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be over the record’s alleged obscenity. Seems quaint and inconsequential now considering how the President of the United States has and continued to talk about women but back in the day it made the news and catapulted the underground group into the national consciousness. Sisqó is the lead singer of Dru Hill but in 1999 he had hit songs like “Thong Song” and “Incomplete.” So you’ll get to take in a good swath of 90s mainstream hip-hop in one concert if you go.
Saturday | July 20
What: Flipper 40th Anniversary Tour with David Yow When: Saturday, 07.20, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: David Yow of The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid will front the notorious San Francisco post-punk band Flipper for this tour and he’s one singer who still seems to have some disregard for his personal safety as a performer.
Sunday | July 21
What:Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/Drowse, New Standards Men and BleakHeart When: Sunday, 07.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s ritual drone, blackened shoegaze, mystic doom, pagan crust sound on its 2019 album Nocebo is Diamanda Galas-esque in its cathartic intensity and SubRosa-like in its sense of mystery.
Tuesday | July 23
What:Beck w/Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler When: Tuesday, 07.23, 4:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Beck went from eccentric underground artist with releases on K Records and Flipside early in his career to late-era alternative icon in the mid-to-late 90s with hit songs and videos on MTV to mature singer songwriter with a gift for inventive soundscaping. All the while Beck’s genre-bending instincts and disregard for expectation and convention has meant all of his albums are worth a listen. Cage the Elephant has made a bit of a name for itself by mixing together punk, psychedelia and bluesy garage rock. Even though Spoon has hit the greatest hits compilation (minus tracks from great albums like Girls Can Tell and Hot Thoughts), the Austin-based, arty post-punk outfit has raised its songwriting bar with every album since its 1996 debut Telephono bringing in electronic elements more to the fore on 2017’s Hot Thoughts and always with the rhythm anchoring and guiding the music. That politicians and public radio station managers cite Spoon as a favorite band shouldn’t be held against them. L.A.’s Starcrawler opens the show with its mélange of punk, 70s glam and stoner rock. Which might get the group lumped in with the recent wave of 90s fuzz rock worshippers. But Starcrawler’s songwriting tends to unironically embrace the swagger of yesteryear and take inspiration from the bands that influenced grunge rather than simply the 90s amalgamation of all of it.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Equine, Death In Space, Shawn Mlekush and JAMF When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This edition of the series focused on more experimental artists mostly from the Denver area includes Equine, the guitar and sometimes beats and other refinements project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater musician Kevin Richards. Death In Space is Aleeya Wilson’s guitar and electronics project. Her December 2017 release Demo EP2 basically combined lo-fi slowcore with minimal synth techno but you never really know exactly what you’re in for at one of Wilson’s shows, which is no knock. Shawn Mlekush is one of the minds behind experimental synth band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory and his solo work has a similar quality of meditative, melancholy ambient guitar, synth and loops like you’re getting a peek into someone’s solitary but restful vacation in the subtropics in early Spring when pretty much no one takes time off to get away. It gives the music a quality that is truly out of step with the hurried pace of modern life in post-industrial America.
Who:Reuben and the Dark w/Florea and Bright Silence (solo) When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Reuben and the Dark is certainly operating in the realm of indie folk with its soaring melodies and uplifting song dynamics. But the Canadian band’s lyrics are brimming with a sweeping emotionalism that work in perfect sync with an inventive and fluid rhythm scheme working underneath the foreground of frontman Reuben Bullock’s expressive vocal delivery. The band’s 2018 album Arms of a Dream has a refreshing array of songwriting styles and its music video and lyrics for “All Or Nothing” challenges culturally entrenched ideas of gender roles and how we relate to one another.
Saturday | June 16, 2018
Who:Bacon Brothers When: Saturday, 6.16, 8 p.m. Where: Stanley Hotel Why: Michael and Kevin Bacon are rightfully better known for their work in cinema and television. Michael, the older brother, for his scoring countless TV and movie soundtracks and Kevin as an iconic actor whose distinguished career spans the past four decades beginning with his role as Chip Diller in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The brothers have played music together from a young age but their band didn’t take on a formal existence until 1995. The band’s country rock and folk songs has more than its fair share of soul in part due to Kevin’s resonant voice which has just enough grit to give it some character. Of course live there will be plenty of banter and humor and an ease of connection between the Bacon Brothers so that the band never comes across as some vanity act in the way we’ve seen with some other people from the acting world who try their hands at music.
Who:Speedy Ortiz w/Anna Burch and Xetas When: Saturday, 06.16, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Since starting Speedy Ortiz as a solo project in 2011, Sadie Dupuis has established herself as one of modern indie rock’s most interesting voices. She was drawing upon the fuzz pop sound of the 90s late alternative rock era before it became a feature of a not small stripe of underground American rock in recent years before it was even remotely trendy. But Dupuis is a multidimensional artist whose work reflects various creative interests that influenced her art including comic, collage and tarot art and their associated signifiers/symbolism. Speedy Ortiz was on the edge of releasing its new album in 2016 or early 2017, a collection of songs about the usual, everyday concerns given poetic and creative life through the lens of Dupuis’ imagination. But the results of the election gave the band pause because, according to a February 2018 interview with Dupuis with Consequence of Sound, the more personal aspect of the songs seemed to lose meaning given the seriousness of the moment. So the group scrapped the album. 2018’s Twerp Verse is a fairly different record from all previous Speedy Ortiz releases in tone and overall subject matter. The songwriting chops and keen ear for evocative melodies are there but the lyrics are so vividly incisive it makes you appreciate even more how articulate Dupuis has been all along in her music career. Read the words to any song from the album and you have to be in awe at Dupuis’ ability to write fairly pointed words that tell it like it is without reeling back in an attempt to let certain people feel okay with their abuse and creepiness—all of course written into well-crafted pop songs. Bravo.
Who:Mike Huckaby (Detroit), Mark Hosler, Normal Ones and Sassmouth
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Mike Huckaby is one of the great modern practioners of techno and seeing one of his sets along would make this show worthy of attendance especially at the Mercury which has a great sound system but doesn’t host as many live music shows as it once did. But also on this bill is Mark Hosler of Negativland who will bring something unique and unusual to perform.
Who:Scrunchies (MN), Surf Mom, Rat Bites, Bad Year When: Saturday, 06.16, 6-10 p.m. Where: Broadway Bar & Bites Why: Scrunchies are an all female punk band from Minneapolis that just released its new album Stunner. Fans of Seven Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and early Sleater-Kinney would do well to check this band out. But if you show up you’ll also get to see Surf Mom, arguably Denver’s best fuzz rock/punk duo as well as Rat Bites, the latest project to include former Rainbow Sugar, Sin Desires Marie and Old Time Relijun drummer Germaine Baca.
Sunday | June 17, 2018
Who:Iceage w/Mary Lattimore When: Sunday, 06.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Why: Iceage has never fit fully into any specific musical subgenre despite the best attempts to do so. New Brigade had too much atmosphere to be a hardcore record but enough edge and intensity to appeal to fans of hardcore. You’re Nothing was refreshingly like a melodic, raging noise rock album. With Plowing Into the Field of Love, though, began a change toward expanded musicality and songs that recalled the ragged punk and decadence sound of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Beyondless, Iceage’s 2018 album, finds the band pushing more into that realm and the expressive range of the music has been enhanced with expansive, drifty dynamics that might draw comparisons with psychedelic rock bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre except that the BJM is likely not an influence. Rather an attempt to express and navigate contorted and conflicting emotions and sense of being at ease with uncertainty even as it floods and crashes into your world.
Monday | June 18, 2018
Who:CHRCH w/Body Void, Boar Worship, Terminus and Matriarch When: Monday, 06.18, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: CHRCH’s cavernous soundscapes are reminiscent of those of SunnO))) but it has a more organic, feral quality to its sonic palette. Eva’s vocals pierce the lingering, pummeling flood of cthonic drone of the band as though carving an incantation on rapidly cooling lava with sheer power of her words. Meaning there’s something magical, dark and powerful about the band’s music and its new album Light Will Consume Us All captures that as well as it can outside of the live setting. Fortunately, you’ll have a chance to see CHRCH for yourself tonight at the Hi-Dive with some of extreme music’s heaviest.
Who:Quiet Slang w/Abi Reimold When: Monday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: James Alex is best known in recent years as the exuberant frontman of punk/pop band Beach Slang. Although a punk veteran going back to 1990 with his old band Weston, Alex struck a chord with the utter sincerity and emotional glow of Beach Slang. Probably some people thought it was overcompensating positivity but the band’s songs deal with the deep heartbreak and disappointment and other struggles of life, it’s just that the presentation is that of an amplified enthusiasm. With Quiet Slang, Alex tries on a more subdued presentation and it might be said it’s sort of an acoustic take on Beach Slang with the usual thoughtful lyrics and heartfelt delivery. Alex’s music is clearly one meant to reach out for connection to other people who want something real in a cynical world where we’re encouraged to hide genuine feelings in order to avoid hurt. Alex encourages himself and others to risk that hurt because the alternative is a soul dead world where everyone plays it safe and never really gets to experience a vibrantly full life.
Tuesday | June 19, 2018
Who:Belle & Sebastian w/Japanese Breakfast When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Belle and Sebastian is practically the template for bedroom pop if written by especially imaginative and thoughtful people. Belle and Sebastian’s body of work sometimes sounds like Stuart Murdoch spent a lot of time creating the back stories of the people he encountered in the street or at the grocery store during his seven years recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prior to starting the band. But the level of detail and psychological insight is what has long made the band’s music relevant past any connection to any trend. Early in 2018 the group released its latest set of songs on three EPs called How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Sharing the bill with Belle and Sebastian is Japanese Breakfast. The band based out of Eugene, Oregon is a bit different from singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner’s previous rock band Little Big League. With Japanese Breakfast Zauner used pop songcraft to address issues of exoticism, sexism and talking about heavy life issues with a refreshing honesty and poignancy. The group’s second album, 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet shed any creative artifice further while also bringing to the songwriting a focus and musical inventiveness that made it one of the most interesting guitar pop records of recent years. Zauner and company take the musical ideas further than you would expect, giving its music a timeless quality that many of its trendier peers won’t enjoy. But all informed by Zauner’s native compassion and wry, but never distancing, sense of humor.
Who:JJUUJJUU w/déCollage and King Eddie When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU is the mastermind behind the psychedelic music festival Desert Daze and its wandering offshoot Desert Daze Caravan. His band, rather than a prime example of the tamed, watered down “psych rock” of recent trendiness, is more experimental and more genuinely aimed at taking the listener on a mind-altering journey through the use of drones, raw noise, evolving melodies and hypnotic rhythms. It’s still rock but refreshingly weird and fans of New Fumes’ and Black Angels’ gift for pushing their own envelope by going outside conventional uses of sound will find much to appreciate here. Local support from local psych music visionaries should set the stage perfectly with experimental pop band déCollage and its freeflowing, freeassociating visuals and sound and King Eddie’s cosmic rock excursions.
Who:Snail Mail w/Bonny Doon and Down Time When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Lindsey Jordan has made quite a name for herself at age 19 for crafting winsome, noisy pop songs of uncommon emotional complexity. Her debut full-length Lush came out in early June 2018 to great critical acclaim. Many of Jordan’s songs have a simply melody throughout but she’s capable of expanding the sonic range on a dime with her guitar work as can be heard clearly in her single “Heat Wave.” Drawing obvious comparisons to Liz Phair and other talented 90s songwriters that got their start in the 90s articulating inner space so vividly, Jordan’s project Snail Mail has plenty of room to build on an already strong creative foundation.
Who:Gomez w/Eldren When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Gomez hit it big with its 1997 debut album Bring It On. At a time when it might have been easy to try to ride the late Britpop wave, Gomez sounded more like a twangy American alternative rock band. But with more creativity than many of its States-side contemporaries. While the band’s sound has evolved over the years, gaining an almost orchestral quality as of its latest album, 2011’s Whatever’s On Your Mind, its core gift for making music that has a distinctly Americana flavor but made by guys from England has remained. For this tour the band will perform Bring It On in its entirety as well as choice cuts from across its long career.
Who:Karl Blau w/Patrick Dethlefs and Evan Holm When: Wednesday, 06.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Karl Blau’s contribution to American pop music probably won’t be fully appreciated any time soon as the prolific artist always seems to be on to a new experiment in songwriting and soundscaping. Pick up any record across his career and you’ll find something worthwhile and inventive even if it’s well within the realm of accessible pop music. His Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society series was a brilliant example of artist-driven releases as a subscription service to Blau’s diverse musical imagination. A master of the loop pedal and rhythm generally, Karl Blau’s songwriting knows few bounds and his performances always containing something ahead of the curve. A frequent collaborator with Phil Elverum (The Microphones and Mount Eerie) and Laura Veirs, Blau pushes pop music in interesting directions whether the rest of the pop music world has yet to catch on.