In addition to featuring an excellent cross section of indie and underground music Treefort Music Fest 2018 is bringing some of the more noteworthy newer bands (Magic Sword, Zola Jesus), classic underground and counterculture artists (George Clinton, Karl Blau, Dear Nora, Andrew W.K., Selector Dub Narcotic, Cindy Wilson, Tad Doyle and Brett Netson and Built to Spill) as well as the kinds of reunion shows (H-Hour, Treepeople and Dirt Fishermen) that you’re not likely to see happen at another music festival. Also, this may be one of the few times you will be able to catch Pussy Riot, the band sentenced to prison in 2012 for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in Russia. The performance art/punk band performs at El Korah Shrine at 11:25 p.m. on Saturday, March 24. What follows a list of the musicians that should be on your must-see list for the weekend with the links to more information on those artists.
Who:L.A. Witch w/Honduras and Palo Santo When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: L.A. Witch’s 2017 self-titled album has a kind of post-Loaded-era Velvet Underground stark shimmery pop grit coupled with a languid psych spookiness. In the songs there is a strong, often urgent, rhythm giving the songs some oomph even when they’re introspective. Any roots the band may have in surf rock or psych garage or whatever trendy of the sounds of the past five to ten years, it has definitely moved on. “Drive Your Car” could be an updated Wipers song. Singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez has a smoky cool voice reminiscent of a world weary Hope Sandoval. Whatever comparisons seem valid, L.A. Witch has turned tired conventions on their head into an incredibly compelling sound. Denver’s Palo Santo is cut from a similar cloth in every way with haunting yet fiery guitar work and Mimi Nissan’s trance-state style vocals.
Who:Revolting Cocks (Big Sexy Land Tour) and Front Line Assembly w/CHANT, DJ Slave 1 and Ritual Aesthetic When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: This show signals the end of the train of noteworthy industrial bands, newer and more established, that came through Denver in 2017. Revolting Cocks started with Front 242’s Richard 23 and Luc Van Acker writing music produced by Al Jourgensen, who was often a collaborator. While clearly irreverent at its heart given the band’s name and album titles like Beers, Steers, and Queers and Linger Ficken’ Good the former of which includes a cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” the latter a cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, Revolting Cocks have interesting and respectable and influential original music across its spate of albums. The current lineup includes Richard 23 and Van Acker, of course, but also former Ministry and Blackouts bassist Paul Barker and longtime Cocks partner in crime, Chris Connelly whose 2008 memoir Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible, and Fried: My Life As A Revolting Cock was a candid, amusing and revelatory account of being in the industrial and alternative music world in general from the 80s forward.
Front Line Assembly’s vision of dystopian global civilization has unfortunately borne out since it sprang to life in 1986. Up to that time frontman Bill Leeb had been a member of Skinny Puppy and his subsequent music in FLA continued that quality that’s difficult to completely nail to a sub-genre of industrial music. The samples put into the music mirrored the influence of hip-hop production on Skinny Puppy, the extensive use of electronic instruments and synths right in line with that like the EBM bands of that day as well as FLA’s imaginative blending of it all to comment on the nature of technology and its impact on human civilization and our everyday lives. Turns out it has continued to be a fruitful subject for not only FLA but science fiction writers mining that rich dystopian nugget of inspiration.
Who: Cindy Wilson (of B-52s) w/Olivia Jean and Battle Pussy
When: Thursday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Cindy Wilson is a member of influential new wave band The B-52s and her unique vocal style alongside that of bandmates Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider made for some arresting melodies amid the incredibly dance-worthy pop songs that were so idiosyncratic in the specific subject matter, no one else could have made it. And yet there was a universal quality to that individual vision that resonated with the oddball and eccentric inside of most people. Currently, Wilson is touring her solo material. Earlier in 2017 Wilson released a fairly experimental, electronic pop EP called Supernatural and on December 1st she is putting out her debut solo album Change, some 41 years into her music career. If the song “Mystic” is any indication, Wilson still has plenty of relevant and inventive music left in her.
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Alex Culbreth, Buffalo Party, Mynewt When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Samvega from Napa Valley, California doesn’t fit in a simple box: Its music is heavy, it’s psychedelic, it’s avant-garde and bluesy. Melissa and Mercedes Baker are unconventionally charismatic singers who sound like and come off like they spent a couple of decades touring with Heart and went on to do something weirder. The band’s 2016 album The King is Asleep was one of that year’s most interesting rock albums for its diversity and obvious care for making it a unique from the songwriting to the painting for the cover art. Also on the bill is experimental rock band Today’s Paramount. They look like they might be in a ska band, and maybe on the side some of them are, but their weirdo take on prog, jazz and psych is not like much of anything going on in Denver.
Who:Melkbelly w/Super Bummer, Princess Dewclaw When: Thursday, 11.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Initially, Melkbelly may sound like yet another modern rock band copping the vibe of 90s post-grunge underground music. But Melkbelly is way weirder than that and its jazz underpinnings and willingness to sculpt pure noise into something musical is what makes its 2017 album Nothing Valley so listenable to anyone looking for a band that isn’t trying to go full retro these days. One might liken Melkbelly’s sound to stuff like Magik Markers or Shearing Pinx but Melkbelly is often more melodic than that even if it sounds like it too took some cues from Unwound’s sonic fearlessness. Opening are excellent Denver bands Super Bummer with its melancholic, lo-fi, soaring songs of heartbreak and isolation and Princess Dewclaw, who seem to have found a new way to combine noise rock, punk, synthesizers and elemental vocals into something both confrontational and rivetingly fragile.
Who:Roska with Rabit, Trisicloplox, Ulmo, Rameau Contnrol, Laru and ilind When: Thursday, 11.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Rameau Control you can’t really fit into a narrow category of electronic music from melodic bass, dub techno, straight techno to whatever. Calling this bill merely “experimental electronic” does a disservice to the individual artists who all come at electronic music partly from a dance perspective but also as composers of music that absorb ideas and exchange methods and sounds with like-minded artists and co-influencing each other whether from Denver or otherwise. For example, ilind is Isaac Linder who often played Denver DIY venues as a noise and performance artist but one who was into house music.
Friday: November 17, 2017
Who:Tommy Stimson’s Cowboys in the Campfire When: Friday, 11.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bruz Beers Why: Cowboys in the Campfire is Tommy Stimson of The Replacements fame (he has also played in numerous other bands including Guns N’ Roses) and Chip Roberts of Uncle Sippy playing songs together as the name suggests but usually electric. Country punk? For fans of NRBQ? Whatever it is, it’s Stimson and Roberts playing lively, fun songs in a duo format in small venues, record stores, private homes and various other situations across the country this tour. Next time you see Stimson play it’ll probably be in a large theater or bigger so hey, make it to this and you might even get to interact with the musicians, something that would probably never happen at Red Rocks or The Fillmore without paying for some kind of wack VIP access ticket.
Who:Flobots w/Wesley Watkins & Grumpy Uncle (Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan) When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Yes, the famous hip-hop band from Denver, Flobots, playing at Larimer Lounge. The opening act, though, is a collaboration between former Night Sweats trumpet player, and leader of The Other Black, Wesley Watkins and Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. So expect something wonderfully weird but with solid songcraft and inspired lyrics.
Who:The Blasters night 1 w/Reno Divorce When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Reno Divorce, a rootsy punk band from Denver, opens this night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Lost Walks w/Midwife When: Friday, 11.17, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lost Walks is sort of a high concept Americana-esque band. High concept in that there is a prepared theatrical element to the live shows as the band collaborates with a visual arts group. Also, the lyrics, steeped in a pastoral and noir literature aesthetic, lend themselves to dramatic performance and grand, emotive gestures from the band’s various vocalists including former Bad Luck City frontman, Dameon Merkl. The band’s debut album, 2017’s Wolf, Woman, Man, is a fascinating contrast of bright, dark, moody, reflective and observational. Opening the show is avant-folk artist Midwife whose own 2017 debut, Like Author, Like Daughter, is one of the the best albums of the year for its delicate, fragile evocation of emotions so broad and deep that it always catches you by surprise with its subtle but irresistible power.
Who:Slow Magic w/Point Point and Qrion When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Slow Magic exists outside of time. The interdimensional creature occasionally releases albums like 2017’s ultra-chillout pop extravaganza Float. You can witness the superstring hopper yourself tonight at The Gothic Theatre.
Who:Big Lo (Florida), RAREBYRD$, iiwii and Brett Gretsky When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: An experimental hip-hop show at Tennyson’s Tap isn’t unheard of and this time it’s Big Lo from Florida whose beats include a mix of samples and turntablism to create a sense of introspection in the face of impending danger. Before and since moving from Saint Louis to Denver, Rooster Jake has been involved in various hip-hop and experimental projects over the years, his latest being iiwii. Brett Gretzky recently migrated to Denver from Saint Louis as well bringing their mixture of hip-hop and soul. RAREBYRD$ will break your heart with sincerely, deeply felt yet gentle expressions of the lowest points a person can reach in the psyche and still come back with one’s soul intact. They use drum machines, synths and sequencers but it always sounds like it’s coming right out of their imagination and plugged into the P.A..
Who:Ice Troll, Never Kenezzard, Heathen Burial and White Dwarf When: Friday, 11.17, 8 p.m. Where: Pit Stop Tavern Why: Doom shows don’t happen in far West Denver much but tonight doom orchestra Ice Troll will play Pit Stop Tavern along with sludge metal thrashers Never Kenezzard, noisy death metal trio Heathen Burial and stoner rock outfit White Dwarf.
Saturday: November 18, 2017
Who:Dead Boys 40th Anniversary tour w/The Roxy Suicide When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: For four years Dead Boys were one of the most outrageous and influential of the early punk bands. With just two albums under its belt, 1977’s Young Loud and Snotty and 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children, Dead Boys set a high bar for inventive guitar work between Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero, a primitivistic yet inspired rhythm section in Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum and literate yet gritty lyrics from charismatic frontman Stiv Bators. The original band split in 1979 but in its wake a lot of the more interesting and scary punk bands of the 80s emerged. In 2017 the band officially re-formed and issued a re-recording of Young Loud and Snotty called Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with its new lineup including Chrome and Blitz as well as new members Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Ricky Rat on bass and frontman Jake Hout. The original record was meant as a demo and the new record is of a much higher quality if missing the genius alchemy of the original band. But you’re not getting a second rate re-tread this time around. This version of the Dead Boys may be older but it still packs a punch.
Who: Galaxy Express 555 (MN), Hippies Wearing Muzzles, J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Saturday, 11.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Historic Grant Avenue Church Why: Galaxy Express 555 is Christopher Farstad’s project that incorporates elements of ambient music, experiential sound environment composition, sampling and loops to create music that has the effect of being a soundtrack to some non-dystopian future society of wide open spaces and minds. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is a modular synth project from Denver. J. Hamilton Isaacs is basically Dugout Canoe so you know the beats and analog synth combination will be beautifully transporting yet feel grounded at the same time. All of this is taking place in church where the natural acoustics will give otherwise electronic music a warmth it doesn’t often project.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series featuring Equine w/Mondo Obscura When: Saturday, 11.18, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked on Colfax Why: This is the latest in Glasss’s Speakeasy Series in the basement of Hooked on Colfax. This time with ambient duo Mondo Obscura and experimental guitar minimalist Equine. Kevin Richards of the latter played drone guitar for years as Temples after having spent several years in weirdo post-hardcore outfit Motheater where he made strange jazz chords fit into a punk context. This show will be a collaborative set between the two projects.
Who:King Eddie – Holographic Universe Album release w/Kyle Emerson, Panther Martin and déCollage DJ set, visuals by DenVR When: Saturday, 11.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: King Eddie is releasing its debut album Holographic Universe and celebrating the occasion with friends Kyle Emerson (whose pastoral psych pop songs are graced with Emerson’s insightful, observational lyrics) and Panther Martin (if indie rock could have come out of late 1970s New York City, it might have sounded like Panther Martin). King Eddie’s songs sound like the band synthesized modern psychedelic rock with math rock rhythms as though assembling a beat over which the band created a colorful and transporting imagery. Reed Fuchs of déCollage will do one of his unique DJ sets and be prepared for some truly unusual and inspired images from DenVR.
Who:It’s Just Bugs, Nearby Liars, Mouthfeel, Falsetto Boy When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This’ll be a weird one for some people because few of the bands are anything alike. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial hip-hop band. Nearby Liars are somewhere between slowcore and late 90s emo with all the glitter and drifty, sweeping, swelling, dramatic emotional experiences you’d want vicariously from that kind of music to purge the Fall blues. Mouthfeel includes members of Wrinkle, Altered State and Laurium. Falsetto Boy is some post-emo, lo-fi singer songwriter type of music.
Who:The Blasters w/O.G. Country When: Saturday, 11.18, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why:The Blasters were and are a respected blues-roots band from Los Angeles where it rubbed shoulders with the punk world, paisley underground and early alt-country acts. The Blasters’ sheer skill and energy made a big impression on everyone that saw them even if the band never quite became a household name. Its 1980 debut album American Music really was a demonstration of how much American music the Alvin brothers, Bill Bateman and John Bazz had absorbed, learned, reinterpreted, amalgamated and reinvented. O.G. Country from Denver, opens this second night of a two night residency at Lion’s Lair.
Who:Liam Gallagher w/Warbly Jets When: Saturday, 11.18, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Oasis’ 1995 hit “Wonderwall” made way too many people think maybe they too can sing in a pop band. Part of it was Liam Gallagher’s borderline tone deaf vocal delivery. But Gallagher is a gifted, powerful singer with some charming rough edges to his voice. And to his personality, for that matter. His conflict with brother Noel was the stuff of tabloid news. But one thing we can thank Oasis for was in finishing off some real dreck in popular music by offering something better and more genuine because you knew the Gallagher brothers weren’t faking it. Endless naff covers of “Wonderwall” plaguing karaoke nights and dire YouTube videos aside, Liam Gallagher’s real legacy was not just his music but some truly amazing moments of comedy and inspiredly uncharitable bits of rhetoric over the years as well as tender and earnest expressions of appreciation for other artists even when, such as the case with The Verve in recent years, those expressions come off as a bit of a headscratcher. He probably had a good laugh about that. Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, came out in October 2017. It’s a bit reminiscent of 60s blue eyed soul and David Bowie’s more R&B moments but the songwriting is solid.
Opening the show is Warbly Jets from Los Angeles. It’s self-titled debut album is a bit slick and polished for a bunch of young musicians who clearly have it in them to go full on into the kind of gritty yet tuneful rock and roll that inspired them. But that’s what happens in the music industry often enough and you just have to check out the band in their, one would presume, element, on stage. With any luck you’ll see a band that has shed the self-conscious quality of the record and even where it might be derivative, play like the band believes in itself.
Sunday: November 19, 2017
Who:Chad VanGaalen w/NE-HI When: Sunday, 11.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chad VanGaalen may not necessarily be known for this now but at some point in the future he may be more widely acknowledged as one of the most influential guitarists and producers of his generation. His bedroom recordings for Infiniheart was picked up by SubPop in 2005. His gift for articulating the anxiety and alienation of the modern era clearly struck a chord and his subsequent music has explored some dark and some merely troubling corners of the human psyche with an ear for the perfect harmonic atmospherics and texture. In 2008, Van Gaalen began his relationship with the math rock/post-punk band Women, a band now oft-cited by younger guitar bands as an influence for its creative use of tone, angular rhythms and dynamics. Members of Women are now in Preoccupations. VanGaalen’s 2017 album Light Information sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Mission of Burma, Helium, 80s minimal synth music and various Jay Reatard projects but the alchemy of that and his own well-developed aesthetic has rendered the songs into something that sounds like something from a long time ago in a place some of us wish existed. It has the kind of vintage sheen like a Ti West film.
Chicago’s NE-HI put out one of the years most repeatedly listenable albums of the year with OFFERS. It’s labyrinthine melodies and straightforward rhythms are a winning combination because it transforms lo-fi garage rock into something extraordinary. Comparisons could be made to Palm, Pavement and Parquet Courts. But its urgent jangle is coming from a different place and that’s what sets the band apart.
Who:Tori Amos w/Scars on 45 When: Sunday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Tori Amos was one of the earliest artists to attain mainstream commercial success to sing about sexual abuse, her struggle to attain her own creative liberation in a sexist music industry that often could (and often can, truth be told) value women as objectified entities that must fit a fairly narrow mold to present to potential audiences. And otherwise just refreshingly vulnerable and honest depictions of life. Though Amos spent much of the rest of her career exploring and writing thoughtfully on these subjects, in the 2000s, Amos put more focus on more mythical expressions, giving her work new dimensions only hinted at in her earlier work. 2017’s Native Invader is about how we can heal ourselves and the world through facing our challenges and conflicts honestly—which has more or less been Amos’ core message as a songwriter since her solo debut album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes.
Tuesday: November 21, 2017
Who:In the Company of Serpents, Goya, Matriarch and Palehorse/Palerider When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A handful of Denver’s best heavy bands are on this bill. Matriarch is a doom/drone band whose 2015 album Magnumus: The 44th Scribe and Lorde of the Hallucinauts has two tracks. And it’s not an EP. It’s also just two lengthy songs that take you on a journey of crushing epics like the soundtrack to Vikings exploring the lands of Irish legend set in South America. Blend all that imagery together and that’s the Matriarch sound. In the Company of Serpents has cracked the monolith of its own sound this past year and the result is 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, where the band’s songwriting beyond devastating riffs emerges for some of ITCOS’ best songs to date. Palehorse/Palerider is the kind of band where people who have generally played more punk-oriented music got into the soundcaping possibilities of heavy music whether metal or the deep atmospherics of the best shoegaze and post-rock music. Its own 2017 epic masterpiece is Burial Songs.
Who:Mom Jeans. (Side One Dummy), Prince Daddy & The Hyena (NY), Kississippi (PA), Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier When: Tuesday, 11.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The lazy thing to do would be to say this is an emo show. Mom Jeans from Berkeley, California is unabashedly so and thus part of that band’s appeal. And more like the late 90s, borderline indie rock variety with the spidery, jangly guitar work. Old Sport from Denver is on the more math-y end of emo with intricate guitar work and song dynamics that sound like someone is thinking in terms of film editing with dramatic drop-outs and sparkling guitar melodies, emotionally charged vocals and a variety of rhythm and texture not common enough in punk generally. Kississippi from Philadelphia is fronted by singer and primary songwriter Zoe Reynolds whose lyrics possess an impressive insight into her own emotional landscape and the ability to translate that into instantly relatable songs.
Wednesday: November 22, 2017
Who:Git Some, Zebroids, Fast Eddie, Jane Doe When: Wednesday, 11.22, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Post-hardcore band Git Some has been around for well over a decade when it started in Chicago in the early 2000s. Through various line-up changes members of the band (Charles French and Neil Keener) have also become members of Wovenhand, bringing another level of grit and intensity to a project not short on that already. It’s essentially noise rock with a sense of humor. Speaking of humor, punk band Zebroids is essentially a ridiculous joke of a punk rock band with absurd lyrics and an equally absurd stage presence. Nevertheless, the band is a lot of fun. Jane Doe is a combination of dark, starkly intense poetry, jagged noise rock and free jazz sensibilities. Fronted by the charismatic Becca Mhalek, Jane Doe is one of Denver’s best kept secrets. For now. Fast Eddie is a hard rock band from Denver which includes Micah Morris who some may know as one of the main people behind Barf magazine. Silly name, perhaps, with some fairly absurdist content, but the magazine has provided some of the better content about Denver music and beyond of recent years
Who:Cannibal Corpse w/Power Trip, Gatecreeper and Of Feather and Bone When: Wednesday, 11.22, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Cannibal Corpse has been getting under the skin of cultural conservatives and squeamish faux-do-gooders for years with music that itself isn’t something we’re going to hear much of any time soon on commercial radio. But the lyrics, quotable by gore horror fans and metalheads for years, almost gleefully crafted to outrage with being so cartoonishly over the top, is what has landed Cannibal Corpse in some hot water with would-be censors. But the live show isn’t littered with corpses and zombies or anything like that so just go expecting one of death metal’s greatest bands. Opening the show are Dallas-based thrash band Power Trip, Arizonan death metallers Gatecreeper (whose music video for “Desperation” from 2016’s Sonoran Depravation is a harrowing depiction of violence and a bit of a commentary on what leads to that sort of thing), and Denver’s deathgrind powerhouse, Of Feather and Bone.