Best Shows in Denver 03/7/19 – 3/13/19

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Low performs at Globe Hall on March 8. Photo by Shelly Mosman

Thursday | March 7

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RUMTUM circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: RUMTUM mural unveiling w/Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO
When: Thursday, 03.07, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: John Hastings who performs ambient/IDM/instrumental pop music as RUMTUM recently received a commission from Meow Wolf to do a mural at The Oriental Theater. Tonight is the unveiling and the evening will incorporate interactive visual installations by WMD and FOREST and performances/DJ sets from Nasty Nachos and DJ YOLOLO.

Who: Rhadoo w/Peter Blick (Below Radar) and Liminal
When: Thursday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Rhadoo is known to connoisseurs of electronic music internationally but in his home country of Romania, he’s a star, a legend of his scene, who is all but mainstream. He brings his chill and hypnotic mixture of house and techno to Black Box for a night of music including a set from Peter Blick of Below Radar (a Denver and San Francisco curator of choice underground electronic music events) and the Liminal collective.

Who: Satin Spar, Ruehlen/Seward and TARP
When: Thursday, 03.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Madelife
Why: Experimental music label Shadowtrash Tape Group and the Madelife gallery present this evening of synth and percussion duos.

Friday | May 8

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And the Kids, photo by Guzman

Who: Low w/Rivulets
When: Friday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For going on three decades Low has written some of the most affecting, emotionally raw, tender and thoughtful music in America. Its influential early albums are classics of slowcore which is to say it was music in direct contrast to the louder and more bombastic trend of popular music of the day. It required and deserved your attention and reflection on the songs. Toward the turn of the century the band’s palette of sounds expanded and it embraced dynamics of volume and its ability to make the ambiance and the mood of a song more nuanced yet immediate. For 2018’s Double Negative, the trio basically reinvented its use of sound. Rather than the pastoral grandeur of years past and the emotionally rich and vibrant offerings of its more rock period, Low seems to have inverted those elements to make something that would be more expected in the realm of abstract industrial music, textured ambient and the avant-garde generally. Except all the songs have a pop quality. Maybe it’s the structures, or the way the band is able to make the dark, fractured music accessible. It is arguably the band’s most interesting album in years from a career that isn’t short on arresting and noteworthy material. What might be even more interesting is how this band will pull off such unusual and challenging material live.

Who: The Playground Ensemble perform 8 Songs For a Mad King
When: Friday, 03.08, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: Denver’s Playground Ensemble will put on a production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ambitious, 1969 masterpiece Eight Songs for a Mad King. The work includes unusual vocals, shifting musical styles, pointed depictions of Mad King George III and a theatrical presentation with elaborate stage props. There will be two performances on this night, as indicated above, and it’s guaranteed there won’t be much like this in Denver in 2019.

Who: Judah Friedlander
When: Friday, 03.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Judah Friedlander is most known for his unusual and brilliant stand-up comedy and for appearing in and writing for some of the most interesting television series of the last twenty years including Wonder Showzen, Spin City, Flight of the Conchords and LateLine. But he is also one of the country’s most sharp and insightful cultural critics and commentators. For this performance there will be plenty of both. Few comedians worth their salt are essentially content free and Friedlander most certainly is not.

Who: Heathen Burial, Masons and Clutch Plague
When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Form
Why: A show that bridges the gap between abstract metal and noise.

Who: And The Kids w/Toth and Corsicana
When: Friday, 03.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: And The Kids’ When This Life is Over has one of the most fetching album covers of 2019. Fortunately it represents well the reticence and exuberance and sensitivity informing the music within. Musically it’s fuzzy, upbeat rock in the modern indie vein but And The Kids are willing to veer off the mid-tempo, safe path and indulge passages that sound like they could go off the song’s rails. Also, in “Champagne Ladies” we get lyrics like “Life is a bastard, life wants to kill you/Don’t get old/Life is a bastard, it wants to kill you/Don’t let go.” Which about sums up too much of life for people grinding away and struggling to not just survive but create for oneself a life worth living even with seemingly insurmountable challenges in place. Also on the bill is Toth, the side project of Rubblebucket’s Alex Toth whose eclectic instrumentation and gift for utilizing space in his songwriting shines with this project as well. The deeply imaginative and soothing debut full-length from Toth, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary comes out on May 10.

Saturday | March 9

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Cloud Catcher circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chimney Choir w/Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Superficially one might describe Chimney Choir as an experimental folk band. But the thought and creativity that goes into the songwriting and especially the always captivating live shows, most of them interactive and often involving elaborate sets and costumes, sets the band apart from most its peers but not competitively, not by setting the bar higher for others to reach but as an example of what’s possible if you’re willing to challenge yourself and put in the time as a creative person to achieve something for yourself that hopefully resonates with others.

Who: Cloud Catcher EP release w/Bleakheart, Cadaver Dog
When: Saturday, 03.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Cloud Catcher is supposedly breaking up later this year so this is one of your last chances to catch the great Denver sludge metal act with bands that may not be in its usual wheelhouse like the hardcore outfit Cadaver Dog. Cloud Catcher is also gifting us with one final EP available at the show. Perhaps we’ll also hear what Rory Rummings and company are up to next soon.

Who: Graves w/Hex Cougar and Gangus
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Not the post-Misfits band, Graves is DJ and producer Christian Mochizuki, He did production work with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Big Sean, for example, and his hybrid hip-hop and progressive trance style of bass music has earned him an audience of his own. He’ll probably be doing sets at bigger venues before too long so if this is your thing, catch it at a small club like Larimer Lounge.

Who: Ned Garthe Explosion, The Savage Blush and Palo Santo
When: Saturday, 03.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: After many of the lesser psychedelic garage rock bands have passed into irrelevance, three of the standouts from Denver are playing on a bill together tonight. Ned Garthe Explosion is clearly the craziest, weirdest and funniest of the bunch. But The Savage Blush makes the most of its minimalist instrumentation and Palo Santo always sounds like it’s from a few decades ago but yet not a throwback.

Sunday | March 10

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Tuck Knee, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Tuck Knee w/No Sign of Remorse, Secticide and didaktikos
When: Sunday, 03.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Tuck Knee is releasing its debut album. Fans of Minor Threat may cry foul at the comparison but Tuck Knee has that kind of energy and conviction and instincts for fairly non-doctrinaire hardcore songwriting. Didaktikos? No slouches in that vein either.

Who: The Sound of Animals Fighting w/Planes Mistaken for Stars and Lorelei K
When: Sunday, 03.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The Sound of Animals Fighting was a brilliant amalgamation of math-y post-hardcore and ambient. Comprised of prominent musicians in the post-hardcore world and lead by Rich Balling of Rx Bandits, the group operated between 2004 and 2009. Also on this tour is one of post-hardcore greatest bands, Planes Mistaken for Stars from Denver. That band’s emotionally searing songs were anthems for the pulsing and tortured collective heart of underground punk in the 2000s.

Monday | March 11

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Animal / object circa December 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Freq Boutique 024
When: Monday, 03.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the twenty-fourth edition of Freq Boutique, the WMD-sponsored showcase of synthesizer tech and gear as well as a sort of open mic for which one can sign up on the event page.

What: Solos/Duos – Denver Avant-Garde Music Society featuring Animal / object
When: Monday, 03.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: This is the monthly avant-garde open mic curated by Denver Avant-Garde Music Society. The evening opens with a performance from Animal / object, the spontaneous composition group whose evolving membership includes long-time Denver avant-garde musician Kurt Bauer at the core often with contributions from Paul Mimlitsch, Arnie Swenson, Reed Weimer and Gordon Gano.

Tuesday | March 12

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Carlos Medina, photo courtesy Meow Wolf

Who: Carlos Medina w/Pink Hawks and The Savage Blush
When: Tuesday, 03.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Carlos Medina, the “psychedelic Mariachi” has already built a sizeable underground following for his unique brand of music that is rooted in Mariachi but with pop flourishes and a fascinating takes on rhythm and use of tone to set the music outside the realm of pure tradition. His touring circuit has taken him to a wide variety of venues treating audiences (knowing or otherwise) to his corridos psicodélicos. As an artist-in-residence at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Medina had a direct connection to the Meow Wolf collective who produced and released his debut full-length El Cantador. Perhaps his exquisitely crafted songs don’t scream out “psychedelic” to those that don’t speak Spanish. But check out the darkly beautiful video for “No Le Digan” and you get a taste of the creative context of the music and Medina’s rich vision that sees the imaginative possibilities inherent in his cultural background and his place as an artist within it. Medina gets compared to Tom Waits but probably because he too is an interpreter and re-interpreter of culture par excellence.

Who: A Night to Survive: Right to Survive Campaign Kickoff Concert
When: Tuesday, 03.12, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: This is a “Yes on 300” fundraiser/kickoff featuring musical performances from some of Denver’s finest: Esmé Patterson, Laura Goldhamer, Wheelchair Sports Camp.

Wednesday | March 13

Who: Sandy Ewen (NYC) + Ryan Seward, Cash/Westerman, Channel Worker
When:Wednesday, 03.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Sandy Ewen is, according to the bio on her website, a “sound artist, visual artist and architect who moved to New York City from Houston in 2018. Her sound art incorporates the use of prepared guitar, the use of textures and objects not conventionally associated with music (like railroad spikes, steel wool, bolts and so on) as well as an array of offbeat instruments used as vessels or raw sound to create an environment and experience. If you’re looking for conventional music, this show won’t be that. Rather, how sound can be an artform that doesn’t fit within the confines of song structure in any tradition.

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

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

Thursday | June 28, 2018

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Post Animal, photo by Tim Nagle

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

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

Friday | June 29, 2018

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Cop CIrcles circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

Saturday | June 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | July 1, 2018

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Immersion, photo by Toby Mason

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

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

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

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

Monday | July 2, 2018

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Dirty Few circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Tuesday | July 3, 2018

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Pale Sun, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Wednesday | July 4, 2018

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Flowering Blade, photo by Tom Murphy

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