Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.

Best Shows in Denver 11/30/17 – 12/06/17

Maria Bamford
Maria Bamford at Paramount Theatre on Friday, December 1. Photo by Natalie Brasington

Thursday: November 30, 2017

Charlie Parr
Charlie Parr, photo by Nate Ryan

Who: Charlie Parr w/Them Coulee Boys
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Charlie’s stage banter is pretty much worth the price of admission. But his take on country and blues is so personal and individual that he leaps over expectations of the genre performed by modern musicians. You can start anywhere in his discography and it’ll be worth a listen. His latest record, 2017’s Dog, seems to capture this moment in American history where a lot of people are experiencing depression and despair and a need to catch a break from that wearying state of mind. In articulating that mood so well, Dog is actually a therapeutic record that actually finds a way to explore dark places without getting stuck in them.

Who: To Be Astronauts album release w/The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Flahoola
When: Thursday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: To Be Astronauts is a psychedelic hard rock band that sounds like the main songwriter might listen to a whole lot of the Misfits and Clutch. Fortunately, on the band’s new album, indifferentstates, these tendencies are morphed into something more original and the songs seem to be about something substantive as in the songs “This Is Not Normal” and “Discontent.” The Patient Zeros are the kind of blues rock band that there should be more of instead those more easy to mock. Probably because CJ Kjolhede, younger brother of former Cutthroat Drifters frontman Nicolas Kjolhede, and Joe Schramm and Michael Raymond aren’t trying to be the next Dead Weather or whatever. Their songs sound more like they’re rooted in some kind of folk and country sensibility with a spooky edge. Add some grit, fuzzy melodies and excellent use of space and that’s a bit of what you get with The Patient Zeros.

Friday: December 1, 2017

SPELLS
SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Maria Bamford
When: Friday, 12.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Maria Bamford spent the 90s honing her comedic craft and flew almost completely under the radar of everyone but fans of underground comedy. She got her start in stand-up in the late 80s at age 19 and by the mid-90s she had spots on various television comedy showcases getting a few minutes on screen here and there. But those sports were memorable and you could tell there was more going on with her comedy than the usual faire. During that time Bamford obviously made connections with other comedians and be her 30s she started to become known for her surreal, intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant comedy to wider audiences. Bamford has voiced various animated TV shows and films such as Stuart Little 2 and Barnyard because of her sheer versatility as a voice actor, her gift for tone, inflection and vocal texture, all features of her stand-up, a real asset for character acting. Her appearances on Arrested Development, Louie, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Kroll Show and numerous others have been standouts, taking all of those shows in more temporarily unusual direction than was already the case.

The Bammer now has her own comedy skit show called Lady Dynamite. As funny as the show might be, like George Carlin, who had a short-lived comedy series on Fox from 1993-1995, Bamford shines brightest in her stand-up where she can exercise her genius for free association storytelling, her illumination of ridiculous moments in all our lives, her sensitivity to the vicissitudes of the traumatized psyche and some of the most incisive social and political commentary of our time. Many don’t “get” Bamford but one might suggest these people take too much too seriously and handle all situations in the world with a shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Bamford expertly treats subjects with the right stresses, the right pressures, the proper intensity, the appropriate tone and with a true appreciation for the humor inherent to almost every experience without unduly diminishing what really is important by, even in joking about it, not trivializing the truly weighty on the social and especially the personal level.

Who: SPELLS, Colfax Speed Queen, Cheap Perfume and Simulators
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: All four bands on this bill could be considered punk but also a step or more in a different realm of music from that. Cheap Perfume is a raw yet melodic punk band that minces no words about sexism, Nazis and El Presidente Cheeto. Stephanie Antillon is an electrifying and commanding front person and that is something not common enough in music. SPELLS has a motto. Something about “80% is good enough.” And sure they live up to that on average in that sometimes you see an unhinged show because Ben Roy is a madman singer and everyone else in the band doesn’t exactly hold back even in hook-driven, pop-oriented punk (though not pop punk, per se). Other times, it’s just a fun, energetic show. Sometimes you don’t need unhinged and thus, yes, 80% is indeed good enough. Stop going for broke all the time or telling yourself you need to do that with all things in life, America. It burns you out. SPELLS teaches us by example that something can be good even if you’re not giving it your all. Colfax Speed Queen didn’t get that memo, apparently, because the psyche garage act seems to play like they’re trying to set a new bar for what that music can sound and look like on stage. Simulators is a noise-punk duo that came about, in part, from wanting to get away from the ideas and sounds of the bands Bryon Parker and Brian Polk are in and have been in. But it still reminds one of Shellac as did Parker’s old band Accordion Crimes—truly no bad thing.

Who: Kacy & Clayton w/Many Mountains and Patrick Dethlefs
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Kacy & Clayton are kind of a vocal and acoustic guitar duo and while that can be one of the most boring things in the world, Kacy & Clayton are drawing upon the great British folk-rock tradition embodied by the likes of Fairport Convention. Resonant tones, spare arrangements that feel full. The duo’s latest record is 2017’s Siren’s Song, for which it is touring in support. Opening the show is Patrick Dethlefs whose own folk music is so richly developed, mastetrfully written and emotionally powerful yet finely nuanced that when you see him you kind of assume he should be the headliner.

What: Rubedo Album Release Popup Shop and Local Music Record Store Debut
When: Friday, 12.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Understudy (890 C 14th Street)
Why: Rubedo’s full blown album release show for Vaca is scheduled for January 6 at The Bluebird Theater with iZCALLi, Wes Watkins and El Cro. But you can pick up the band’s latest record, a tribute to and meditation on the impact of friends and community on our lives. Over the weekend there will be a showcase celebrating the opening of a popup local record store at Understudy. Friday will celebrate the release of the record, Saturday there will be performances from Rubedo, Holophrase, Entrancer and many others. Sunday will continue live music performances with artists to be announced. For more information and more up-to-date schedules, please visit the link above or here.

Saturday: December 2, 2017

 

Alex Lahey
Alex Lahey, photo by Giulia McGauran

Who: Pink Hawks 
When: Saturday, 12.02, 11 a.m.
Where: Children’s Library at Denver Public Library Central Branch
Why: The sprawling afrobeat band from Denver finds a way to mix humanistic radical politics with high energy performances. And this time you’ll be able to catch the band in the Children’s Library at the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library in the morning. Yes, the content doesn’t mince words but it’s also safe for kids because Yuzo Nieto and his bandmates are brilliant that way in making accessible music with deep content designed to bring you in rather than alienate you.

Who: Alex Lahey w/Dude York and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Alex Lahey hails from Melbourne, Australia and over the last couple of years she’s garnered some attention for her spirited, fuzzy, pop songs. Lahey’s lyrics are tender, self-deprecating, often humorous tales of desire, angst, seemingly thwarted aspirations, and everyday struggle and misfortune. Lahey’s songs are usually upbeat but she seems to honor the downbeat emotions even as she transforms the experience into something with real fire and energy behind the delivery. Her debut full-length, 2017’s I Love You Like a Brother is brash yet sensitive and bluntly yet somehow thoughtfully honest.

Who: Rocky Mountain Low 2: United Mutation, Vile Gash, Cadaver Dog, The Pollution and Combat Force
When: Saturday, 12.02, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second edition of Rocky Mountain Low, a mini-festival put together by Reed Bruemmer of Poison Rites and Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo. This time it’s mostly punk and hardcore including a rare appearance from United Mutation from Washington D.C.–a band that existed in the 80s alongside the bands on the Dischord imprint of that day. U.M. had incorporated psychedelic rock sounds into its songwriting so that it still has the bite and energy of hardcore while seeming to have learned a thing or two from Chrome and Hawkwind. Similar ethos, different side of the D.C. punk scene of the 80s. Jay Fox of United Mutation has lived in Denver for several years and his more overtly psychedelic punk band The Pollution will perform as well.

Who: Jed Kopp’s Birthday Bash: Pretty Mouth and The Sleep Escape
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Gary Lee’s
Why: Jed Kopp has been lending his drumming talents to several bands in Denver over the years and his clear musical talent plus his affable nature has made him a real fixture in Denver underground music. One band he plays with these days is the alt-country/punk band Pretty Mouth whose singer Marie Litton has an otherworldly presence as a front person, giving the songs and the performances an elevated and elegant quality.

Who: Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Savage Blush, Modern Leisure and Down Time
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Must be the top notch all local bill weekend in Denver. For this show Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, formerly from Fort Collins, will bring its literate yet gritty folk rock. The Savage Blush’s deeply reverby psychedelic pop will illuminate the stage. Modern Leisure’s superbly crafted pop songs graced with Casey Banker’s insightful lyrics and ability to truly capture a moment in time and tell a story will be on display. And Down Time is an indie rock band but it will demonstrate, as it always does, how you can work with familiar sounds and tools and by being willing to experiment with all elements make something incredibly compelling and original. The band’s use of percussion in a way that is very tied to the vocals and the use of synths in the mix brightens the sound and augments all the melodies in a way you don’t often hear.

Who: The Lollygags, Hot Apostles, Jonny Barber and The Ghost-Towners
When: Saturday, 12.02, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ Englewood
Why: Very mixed bill but no filler. The Lollygags is a power pop band that sounds like it’s listened to a lot of The Wedding Present and Elvis Costello. Hot Apostles is a hard rock band that sounds like its members worked all the obvious influences out of its sound. Like maybe the members were into 70s classic rock and glam rock of the 80s but ditched the gross trappings and held onto the solid songwriting and passion. The Ghost-Towners describe themselves as an outlaw country band, which could be more retro-mundane rip-off of better material but the band includes Dario Rosa formerly of Cabaret Diosa, his former Cabaret Diosa bandmate Kimmy Franco, Zack Littlefield who spent time playing with Supercollider, Greyhounds and Sonnenblume, Bobby Genser and Chuck Cuthill both of Slakjaw and Mark Aubie of The Jaguars. Not a supergroup, per se but the outlaw country claim is no idle boast because of that lineage.

Who: Blackcell with Solypsis, The Psybrid, DJ Hepster Pat
When: Saturday, 12.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: This will be a bit of a different show with Denver’s longest-running industrial/experimental electronic band Blackcell as the duo collaborates with ambient and industrial artist Solypsis. Whatever the exact nature of the set it’ll be an entrancing, enveloping sonic experience.

Sunday: December 3, 2017

Chella And The Charm
Chella And The Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella and The Charm, Bryan McPherson and Sputnik Slovenia
When: Sunday, 12.03, 5 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Two of Denver’s great storytellers will be playing this show. Michelle Caponigro of Chella and The Charm, can write a song about situations and experiences pretty much anyone can relate to but in the telling take aim at larger issues and while thoughtfully unpacking what are often complicated subjects. Anyone can write a trite song about relationships for the gendered fist bump of solidarity. Caponigro gives us something much more profound and anything but rote. Jim Yelenick will perform his more or less solo material as Sputnik Slovenia but you may remember him for being the frontman of Nuns of Brixton, Pitch Invasion and Jet Black Joy. Among others. There’s a very self-conscious and irreverent humor in his show and in many of his songs. Amid that, and because of that, there’s an unexpected sincerity that you get when a natural born smartass gets real even using irony as an element in the art.

Who: Punk For Positive Change—Benefit for Northern Colorado AIDS Project: Discount Price, Equine, Smashy Claw, Plasma Canvas, Teacup Gorilla, Sinister Pig
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Obviously a benefit show for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, not so obvious is how, thank goodness, broad the sense of punk might be for this show. Kevin Richards, who is Equine, was once in experimental post-hardcore band Motheater even though his current project is more like an avant-garde guitar solo project that wends toward the realm of ambient. Teacup Gorilla is more like a post-punk-oriented glam band that doesn’t seem to be looking to any era or scene for inspiration and what’s more punk than that, really. If you mixed Weird Al with Dead Milkmen you might get something like Smashy Claw. Who knows what instruments they’ll use in the songs? Live, the band is probably more stripped down and will still probably confuse people who don’t get bands that don’t fit into a narrow genre. The irreverent, fuzz-fueled melodies of Plasma Canvas’s post-sludge-doom garage punk has more in common with Kyuss and Mudhoney than King Tuff. Not that this duo isn’t into King Tuff.

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Sunday, 12.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchel’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Monday: December 4, 2017

Whitney
Whitney, photo by Sandy Kim

Who: Whitney w/Julie Byrne
When: Monday, 12.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich were once members of one of the most promising bands of the last several years, Smith Westerns. The breezy psychedelia of Smith Westerns resulted in a handful of releases and the group had garnered a large enough audience to tour playing mid-sized theaters across North America. But in 2014 Smith Westerns called it quits. Kakacek and Ehrlich wrote the early Whitney songs while living in Chicago. Two years later, after already a fairly busy touring schedule, the then full band released Light Upon The Lake, recorded with Jonathan Rado of Foxygen. The record sounds like Kakacek and Ehrlich spent a lot of time in Laurel Canyon or listening to records from the heyday of the musicians who lived and wrote their own classic material in that part of Los Angeles. An immediate comparison could be made with Joni Mitchell’s 1974 classic, Court and Spark. Partly because the vocals are intentionally in a different tone and pitch than you’d expect from even a 60s-and-70s-worshipping indie rock band from today a well as Mitchell’s genius for turning unusual, even experimental, guitar tunings into accessible riffs. Whitney, in making interesting musical choices, makes familiar-sounding music interesting because it is so well-crafted and sonically imaginative despite hearkening back to an older aesthetic. The band puts its own stamp on that sound making Whitney a band to watch rather than merely culture vulturing on an already established musical style.

Who: Grizzly Bear w/serpentwithfeet
When: Monday, 12.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Grizzly Bear’s 2017 album Painted Ruins sounds like it’s tapping into the same emotional states of fantasy, yearning, uncertainty, nostalgia and self-examination that Joe Walsh expressed in his 1978 album But Seriously, Folks… and the wistful, deeply atmospheric soundscaping conjured by Supertramp for the songs on 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments and 1979’s Breakfast in America. The melody is there, even the pretense of upbeat tempos and gestures of hope. But all are about anxiety in an age of fake plenty expressed with a sublime irony and compassion for all of us living through this moment. All those albums were written by relatively successful artists who may have fully indulged in the “good life,” to varying degrees, that music made possible for them but all of whom also saw the limitations of the hubris that commercial success and the privilege it provides engenders in many people and wrote existential songs to that effect. That’s not to say Grizzly Bear is “important” or that Painted Ruins is a masterpiece, certainly the other three records mentioned aren’t necessarily so for those respective artists, it’s just refreshing to hear a solid, thoughtful album that doesn’t give the impression that nothing’s wrong but also doesn’t try to offer shallow, pat advice.

Tuesday: December 5, 2017

Overcoats
Overcoats, photo by Anna Azarov

Who: Overcoats w/Sarah Jaffe
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Electronic pop duo Overcoats released its debut full-length YOUNG in 2017. It has the kind of sonically rich production you would hope for from a band of its kind but where Overcoats truly distinguishes itself is in its willingness to incorporate fairly unconventional sounds and rhythms in its songs and the subject matter of the lyrics sound more like a worthwhile country or folk artist. The vulnerability and startling frankness may not be obvious amid ghostly atmospheres and lushly smooth low end pulses but if you take some time with the songs it’s striking. And who better to tour with Overcoats than Sarah Jaffe’s whose own 2017 album Bad Baby swims in bright yet melancholic synth tones and sweeping rhythms as well as thought-provoking words that unwind some of the complexity of mixed emotions everyone seems to navigate in modern life these days. Definitely for fans of St. Vincent and EMA.

 

Who: Supersuckers, The Bellrays, Bombpops
When: Tuesday, 12.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Supersuckers have tried on various sounds over the course of the last thirty or so years. But initially the band was kind of a garage punk band with an irreverent and ironic sense of humor. Probably too many people took their song “I Say Fuck” too much at face value, totally missing the significance of Daniel Clowes having done the artwork to The Smoke of Hell and Clowes’ own views on the lunkheads of the world. Whatever your takeaway from the band, its shows are energetic and celebratory even after it wisely progressed away from its roots a bit and became more of a gritty country rock band in recent years. Bellrays are a soulful revolution rock band fronted by the incomparable Lisa Kekaula. For its 1998 album Let It Blast, the band wrote a song called “Blues For Godzilla” and actually lived up to the title. That image should give you some idea about the live show.

Wednesday: December 6, 2017

Sheet Metal Skingraft
Sheet Metal Skingraft, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Sheet Metal Skingraft, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Universal Devils
When: Wednesday, 12.06, 9p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: For this edition of Weird Wednesday you get to witness the noise-driven beatmaking of Sheet Metal Skingraft, the sinister one-man band folk-metal of Universal Devils as performed by Tricky Dick Wickett of Little Fyodor and Babushka Band and Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars which answers the question “What do you get when a noisy, experimental funk band makes music that J. Dilla might have wanted to sample while making a song that sounds like a lo-fi version of J. Dilla’s more out there beats?” Very meta. Thus, Weird Wednesday delivers another night of some of the most interesting and unusual music in Denver.