What:Day of Jubilee: R A R E B Y R D $ When: Friday, 1.3, 6 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Day of Jubilee is a First Friday event at The People’s Building in Aurora, Colorado. Tonight’s proceedings include live music at 7 p.m. with R A R E B Y R D $. R A R E B Y R D $ is a hip-hop group from Denver. Its two MCs, Key~Lady and KoKoLa, combine swagger and soul, inspiration and heartbreak into an alchemical musical experience. Their beats bring together gangsta rap’s mastery of bass sculpting, exploratory synth experiments and hazy, hypnotic drones with organic, Afro-Cuban rhythms. R A R E B Y R D $ ranges widely in the subject matter of its lyrics from the playfully earthy to the emotionally deep and transcendent but always with the spirit of inviting you into that private world with a welcoming emotional intimacy rare in a live performance.
What:Eyebeams album release w/96 Ponies, Vampire Squids From Hell and Slugger When: Saturday, 1.4, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Eyebeams is releasing its second album It Means Trouble. The bright, languid psychedelia of the record ranges far from what we’ve come to expect from that loose genre of the past decade. It’s as though lead vocalist/guitarist Suzi Allegra absorbed all the influences that have manifested in recent music but long before when she was growing up and used it as a launching point into emotional outer space. The songs seem to explore issues of anxiety, fears, existential frustrations, feeling perpetually dreaming and wishing rather than doing and ending on a note of learning to calm the mind as a place from which to figure out what you really feel, what you really want and maybe how to actually get there.
What:Bands Against the Ban: Church Fire, Married a Dead Man, Hate Minor and Rebel Girl Productions When: Saturday, 1.4, 7:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Since members of the Senate are trying to have Roe Vs. Wade revisited with aims of overturning legal abortion in a country not actually founded by the Christian version of the Taliban, it will be necessary for people to voice their desire not to live in Medieval Europe again. And this show featuring some of Denver’s most interesting bands is a benefit in the struggle against the forces of reaction. This event is a benefit for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and was organized by Megan Kelley of darkwave band Married a Dead Man and David Pereira of noise rockers Hate Minor. Local experimental dance/darkwave band Church Fire will headline and embody a spirit of resistance with its own music and burlesque troupe Rebel Girl Productions will bring its own performance unique in that realm of expression as well.
What:Caustic Soda, Feeling Old (WA), Broken Lawn Chairs and Sliver When: Sunday, 1.5, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Sliver’s Chris Mercer wanted to revisit his folk punk roots “not shit like Andrew Jackson Jihad, Pat the Bunny or Camper Van Beethoven, the good shit like Days N’ Daze.” Fortunately his bandmates convinced him that playing with Boulder-based noise punk band Caustic Soda, folk-inflected indie rock punks Feeling Old from Seattle and Broken Lawn Chairs, an actual folk punk band, from Castle Rock. Sliver fortunately won’t torture us with Mercer’s idea of what “real” folk punk sounds like and might actually be enjoyable this time too.
Monday | January 6
What:lovelesslust w/Equine and Gila Teen When: Monday, 1.6, 7 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: loveless lust is a mix of synth pop and industrial and thus a good fit with two bands from Denver that don’t fit neatly into any musical milieu either. Gila Teen is the hybrid sad boy post-punk/emo band we all need in the world right now.
What:The King Khan & BBQ Show w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Tuesday, 1.7, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: King Khan has been making psychedelic garage rock and evolving the art form since before it became hip again and again in the 2000s from back when he was a member of The Spaceshits in Kukamongas in the late 90s. With The King Khan & BBQ Show he and fellow Spaceshit Mark Sultan blended doo wop and garage punk and were in the same circles of likeminded acts Black Lips. Khan has also been involved in King Khan & The Shrines, but the BBQ show is like some late 60s psychedelic soul revue updated for the modern era. Denver-based Colfax Speed Queen will be a great pairing with its own electrifying live show of noisy psychedelic punk.
What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
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
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: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
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
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
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
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: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.
Who:A Light Among Many album release, Sonic Vomit, Green Druid and Vexing When: Thursday, 08.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A Light Among Many is the doom drone solo project of Franklin Binder. Using voice, guitar and loops, Binder articulates the spirit of the desolate stretches of Colorado’s high plains stitched with lonely highways and an unseen networks of ley lines. His music has a haunted and tortured yet transcendent menace like a violent storm hovering on the horizon, circling loci of civilization, touching down periodically as a reminder of the primacy of nature over humankind’s hubristic plans. ALAM’s new album Returning to a Scorched Earth drops tonight at the Hi-Dive. It is a beautifully despairing composition of rage at mankind’s abusive stewardship of the earth.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Equine, Space Jail, Full Bleed When: Thursday, 08.16, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Musical Mayhem is now happening at the Lion’s Lair. The monthly event curated by Claudia Woodman is a good way to see some of the more unusual or experimental bands not necessarily seeing a lot of time at most clubs. Equine is the soundscaping/future jazz/avant-garde guitar solo project of former Motheater and Epileptinomicon guitarist Kevin Richards whose been having quite a prolific year recently in terms of releases and collaborations with each of his shows being fairly different from one another. Space Jail is what might be described as a psychedelic downtempo space rock band. Full Bleed fortunately doesn’t fit an easy formula either with elements of more tripped out stoner rock and soundsculpting use of distortion. What does that mean? They use distortion to give a drawn out sound texture and evolving qualities of sound that seem to impact your body and ears with modulating levels of volume and physicality. When one learns to control these qualities more it can be an interesting musical and experiential effect on its own despite not necessarily being a feature of most music that fits into a mainstream songwriting context.
Friday | August 17, 2018
Who:Esmé Patterson and The Still Tide When: Friday, 08.17, 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavilion Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her thought-provoking and evocative art folk/pop to Levitt Pavilion tonight to share the stage with The Still Tide. The latter is sometimes referred to as dream pop or indie rock and as vague genre designations they both fit. But singer and guitarist Anna Morsett’s emotionally dynamic voice and stage presence elevates the already excellent songwriting.
Who:Old Crow Medicine Show with I’m With Her (featuring Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan) When: Friday, 08.17, 7 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Old Crow Medicine Show’s existence predates the most recent wave of old timey/string band/folk Americana music and it could be argued it’s 2004 hit “Wagon Wheel” (co-written by Bob Dylan and OCMS’s Ketch Secor) helped to popularize that music with the mainstream and influenced a generation of like-minded musicians in its wake. Mumford and Sons covered the song several years later. Nevertheless, Old Crow Medicine Show sounds like it could have come up during the folk revival of the 60s and 70s. Its 2018 album Volunteer is a lively blend of bluegrass and classic country. I’m With Her is a trio of some of the best Americana artists in the land right now all of whom have highly respectable careers outside of the band.
Who:All Out Helter 10 year anniversary, day 1 w/Muscle Beach and Record Thieves When: Friday, 08.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: All Out Helter is a band that has too much of a hard rock edge to be purely punk and with its progressive politics firmly in place and eloquently expressed, the band’s firebrand energy is very welcome in an era when too many bands shy away from having anything to say without blunting the impact a little for the infirm of heart and mind. To celebrate its first decade as a band, All Out Helter is playing two nights at the Hi-Dive. On this first night a similarly unpigeonholable heavier hardcore band Muscle Beach will share the stage with the veteran group as well as melodic hardcore outfit Record Thieves.
Who:Luke Vibert with Sortof Vague, Seied and Kanyon Walker When: Friday, 08.17, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Acid jazz/techno artist Luke Vibert, sometimes collaborator with Aphex Twin, will perform tonight at The Black Box. Vibert’s prolific and diverse career has included some time playing in punk band, a hip-hop crew and the electronic composition for which he’s most well known. His most recent record Smell The Urgency might be described as acid hip-hop as it has more in common with the likes of J. Dilla, Flying Lotus and Jonwayne with its favoring chill yet otherworldly beats.
Who:King Buffalo w/Green Druid, Emerald Siam When: Friday, 08.17, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: King Buffalo from Rochester, New York makes the kind of vibey psychedelic music that has some connection to the hybrid of atmospheric doom and trippy pop. What sets the band apart from many of its peers, though, is partly the expansive, drifty melodies that have more in common with the early period of The Verve than some later era lazy shoegaze wannabe act. But its basslines are exceptional and set the pace and the mood with a fluid strength that channels the songwriting into interesting sonic spaces. That quality can also be found in Denver atmospheric rock band Emerald Siam. While the latter has some roots in psychedelic garage rock and the retrofuturist soundscaping of The Jesus and Mary Chain its more recent music has struck deep into musical darkness with an uncommon originality born of not wanting to sit comfortably in someone else’s shoegaze or psych subgenre.
Saturday | August 18, 2018
Who:Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament When: Saturday, 08.18, 3:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: This is supposed to be Slayer’s final tour. We’ll see. Nevertheless, the legendary thrash band will share Fiddler’s Green with some of the greats of thrash in New York’s Anthrax and the Bay Area’s Testament. As well as newer bands that managed to come out of the 90s as metal but not nü metal. Poland’s Behemoth on the surface seems to be the most out of place with its occult-y black metal but its root is the same kind of death metal and thrash that Slayer helped to influence. Both Avenged Sevenfold’s and Lamb of God’s sound can also be traced to the first wave of thrash. LoG has recently hinted that it will perform as Burn the Priest with a release harkening back to the time when it performed under that name as a band that was experimenting with a hybrid of death metal and hardcore. In May 2018, as Burn the Priest, Lamb of God released Legion: XX, an album of covers of hardcore, thrash, sludge rock, industrial bands as well as a cover of Big Black’s “Kerosene,” whatever genre that might really be if any. Chances are you’ll get to see a bit of that with this tour.
Who:Sandra Collins When: Saturday, 08.18, 10 p.m. Where: Venue to be announced Why: Sandra Collins made a name for herself as a talented trance artist in the world of 90s rave and electronica long before electronic dance music became synonymous with the acronym EDM. Really her roots in that music pre-date the widespread use of the aforementioned terminology. Whatever designations have been applied to Collins’ music her skills as a producer, remixer and DJ have long been widely respected and she was inarguably the first female DJ in electronic dance music to gain wide popularity. Her ear for solid, evolving rhythms intersected with rhythmic melodies and textures has made for a large body of work as a live DJ and on recordings like one of trance’s creative landmarks, 2000’s Tranceport.3. In 2013 Collins’ career was documented in Kandeyce Jorden’s 2013 film Girl (in 2018 the film started steaming on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon). Still traveling the world and doing sets, Collins remains one of the few superstar artists in an especially male-dominated realm of music but one that has become increasingly less so in part due to her encouragement and example.
Who:Bluebook w/Erica Ryann When: Saturday, 08.18, 8 p.m. Where: Aurora Fox Why: There are pretty much never any shows in Aurora of this kind going on. Experimental folk/downtempo duo Bluebook at downtown Aurora’s classic theater on Colfax? Hopefully the harbinger of more interesting stuff to come to A-town.
Who:Amen Dunes w/Okay Kaya When: Saturday, 08.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Amen Dunes is often presented as merely some of of psychedelic indie rock artist. But if his latest album, 2018’s Freedom, is any indication he’s been ahead of that curve for some time. If clumsy comparisons must be made his songwriting is as unique, as interesting and as unusual as that of Devendra Banhart or going back some decades, Roxy Music. There is an organic yet otherworldly and sultry quality to the songwriting. It’s also earnest in its emotional outpouring recalling a more mellow Soft Boys or solo Robyn Hitchcock.
Who:Fed Rez (album release) w/Los Mocochetes, R A R E B Y R D $, The Original Ills, DJ Bloodpreshah When: Saturday, 08.18, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Fed Rez’s version of hip-hop is one that doesn’t get hung up over genre conventions. Its sample-based compositions don’t shy away from acerbic observations but always informed by a sense of humor that is clever rather than cruel. The quartet releases its latest album this night, On the Regs. To usher in the new record Fed Rez has brought together some of Denver’s finest, like-minded musical entities including Latin funk band Los Mocochetes and dream beat, future jazz, post-apocalypse world beat phenoms, R A R E B Y R D $.
Sunday | August 19, 2018
Who:Rope Trick Effect and Halo Halo When: Sunday, 08.18, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Rope Trick Effect and Halo Halo could loosely be called jazz-fusion. If that fusion included R&B, torch song lounge, punk and the expected prog when one speaks of fusion. But don’t expect Mahavishnu Orchestra style musical gyrations so much as something you might expect to share a bill with Leonard Cohen in the early 80s. Rope Trick Effect vocalist Molly Zackary is billing the show as #jazznotjazz #sorrynotsorry because of the short shrift that the original jazz scene in Denver gets from most of the local media and, well, music fans too who may not know such a thing exists in the Mile High City. As with everything else Zackary has done in music in Denver, as a music instructor and musician, there is a great deal of musical prowess and emotional power involved in Rope Trick Effect. Its 2017 EP is so solid and refined it could have come out on Blue Note. But see for yourself at this free and children friendly/but not wack show at Denver’s underground/above ground culture hub, Mutiny Information Café.
Tuesday | August 21, 2018
Who:Winter with Vinyl Williams and Corsicana When: Tuesday, 08.21, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Samira Winter grew up in Curitiba, Brazil, the daughter of an American father and a Brazilian mother, but went to college in Los Angeles. The mix of cultures has given her pop songs a decidedly different flavor beyond the bilingual lyrics. With her band, named Winter, Samira has crafted lushy atmospheric pop gems and the band’s 2018 album Ethereality is most suitably titled. It’s reminiscent of late 2000s dream pop and chillwave with a lo-fi aesthetic giving the songs hazy edges of nostalgic whimsy. Winter is also set for a late September release of a collaborative album as Winter & Triptides called Estrela Mágica that sounds like a long lost Latin psych/folk record of the 1970s.
Who:The WHEAL and Voight When: Tuesday, 08.21, 9 p.m. Where: Blue Ice Why: The WHEAL came all the way from Paris, France to perform at Blue Ice. The project supposedly has roots and a lineage in 80s electronic music and post-punk.Whatever its origins, The WHEAL is a modern darkwave band that uses ambient tracks, drum machines and synth compositions to create a dense and deep soundscape. Paired with The WHEAL on the bill is Denver’s Voight, a band whose own fusion of electronic/minimal synth and searing post-punk guitar sounds is unique in the Mile High City.
Wednesday | August 22, 2018
What:Centered Volume 3: Ian Sherlock, Mobdividual, Lepidoptera and J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Wednesday, 08.22, 7 p.m. Where: Bar Max Why: This third edition of Jacob Isaacs’ Centered series, which features underground, experimental electronic artists from around the country as well as Colorado, will include local artists Mobdividual, Lepidoptera and Isaacs himself along with Syracuse, New York-based ambient/environmental sound artist Ian Sherlock. Taking place in the basement of Bar Max, the event will make it easy to escape the bustle of Colfax and take in some great, minimalist soundscapes.
Who:Bad Bad Hats w/Cumulus When: Wednesday, 08.22, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Minneapolis-based indie rock band Bad Bad Hats recently released its new album, Lightning Round. Singer Kerry Alexander has long written music playing with and often subverting pop clichés. Lightning Round is no different with, according to an August 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Alexander examining the love as drug metaphor as someone who hasn’t indulged in the song “Nothing Gets Me High.” Alexander imagines possibilities in cultural artifacts and their impacts on our lives and popular culture as with “1-800.” Across her career Alexander has commented insightfully on the emotionally/psychologically fraught moments in any relationship as it starts and develops but especially so on Lightning Round with “Absolute Worst” and “Girl.”
Who:Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Pale Sun When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t kick off any of the handful of psychedelic rock revivals since the 60s but it is one of the few bands that had the emotional resonance and quality of songwriting that made the original wave so interesting. The BJM also brought to the music a musical sensibility that didn’t emerge and synthesize until the 90s after the impact of the alt-country and Paisley Underground of the 80s refined psych, until after house and electronica generally, shoegaze and slowcore brought about different ways to use drones, atmospheres and beats in different contexts. The BJM freely absorbed all of that sort of thing and produced more consistently interesting rock music than most bands of its era. On later records, Anton Newcombe even brought in musical ideas that one might usually attribute to synth pop and krautrock for a hybrid music that pushed far past the bevy of modern psych bands it directly influenced. Pick up pretty much any of their early records and you’ll hear those echoes across a broad stripe of modern rock music. Pick up any of the band’s albums and you’ll hear something interesting that not anyone else is doing quite as well if at all. This show will probably be a more classic Jonetown Massacre set but that just means a good deal of emotionally changed, tonally nuanced songs that come from the heart. Even people who are stuck on the depiction of Newcombe in the great 2004 documentary film Dig! have to admit that he at least seemed like a sincere artist even at his lowest points. Opening is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun, which includes former members of two of the best bands out of that realm of music that never quite hit national prominence in guitar genius and singer Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed and multi-faceted drummer Kit Peltzel formerly of Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.
Who:Bevin Luna album release w/Jen Korte & The Loss and Wildflowers When: Thursday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Like most of the musicians/bands that come out of Memphis, Bevin Luna’s songwriting is quite eclectic but not in that trying-to-please-too-many-people way. You get the feeling that Luna had to prove herself to some unforgiving audiences before she moved to Denver and started playing in the local scene in 2005. It’s rock haunted by country, traditional blues, folk and played with the energy of what a punk band should be. While not as swamp-haunted as, say, Gun Club or as countrified as Green On Red, Bevin Luna’s songwriting has roots in similar musical territory. Her new album, Baby Dragon, is fuzzier than some of her earlier music and the raw quality of the recordings really enhances Luna’s natural grit.
What:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: R A R E B Y R D $, Shocker Mom, Pearls & Perils When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Oh, sure, these artists play more than a few shows together. But it’s an example of some of the best bands/artists going playing shows in less-than-fancy situations to friends regardless of whether strangers will get it, thankful for friends showing up and putting on a great show anyway. To call any of these projects “hip-hop” would be technically accurate but wouldn’t encompass the imaginative soundscaping and beats and the use of natural dance moves in performing the music in a way. A short list of the most emotionally moving vocalists in Denver now would have to include KokoLa and Key Lady from R A R E B Y R D $, Robin Walker who is Shocker Mom and Olivia Perez who is Pearls and Perils. Fans of downtempo, lushly produced hip-hop and R&B should make the effort to check out these artists whether tonight or another time.
Friday | May 18, 2018
Who:Hot Snakes, Le Butcherettes and Git Some When: Friday, 05.18, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, out March 2018 on Sub Pop, is the band’s first album since 2004’s excellent Audit in Progress. And, of course, it’s less playful than Rick Froberg’s and John Reis’s other projects (Obits, Rocket From the Crypt), and has perhaps more in common with their pioneering noise rock band Drive Like Jehu. Angular, at times clashingly atonal, jagged breakdowns, the songs somehow have an anthemic quality that one might attribute to a pop punk band. Except that Jericho Sirens is a seething commentary on how every part of our culture and world civilization in general seems to be on the verge of collapse with public and political rhetoric amping up a kind of Manichaean world view in which one must pick a side or one will be presumed for you. The title of the album, alone, brilliantly and poetically clues one in on the constant state of alert that is encouraged in everyone everywhere all the time now. On this leg of the tour is Le Butcherettes, a band whose own music embodies the violence and contrasts of modern Mexico while examining the nature of identity and the role it plays in our lives and how notions of such can warp perception and impose a harmful cognitive framework. But all headiness and doom and gloom aside, both Hot Snakes and Le Butcherettes are bands whose live show is so viscerally entertaining that even if you don’t look beyond the surface level you won’t regret going. That bands aren’t creating essentially content-free art right now, though, is incredibly refreshing. Git Some, from Denver, is cut from a similar cloth and even if you see Luke Fairchild moving around like a marionette drive by forces beyond his control, what he’s singing about also cuts to the quick of the harrowing reality of modern human, especially North American, life.
Saturday | May 19, 2018
Who:Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Marisa Anderson When: Saturday, 05.19, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Marisa Anderson’s guitar compositions channel the sound of the natural world around her. Pastoral in tone with a detail of sound that suggests emotions rendered as sonic texture. Her forthcoming album, Cloud Corner (due out June 15, 2018 through Thrill Jockey), is like a step into that part of America that is off the main roads and outside the thought patterns and resultant culture that pushes us all to go, go, go at the expense of our own long term psychological health. It is music that if we take it in on its own terms reminds us to make time for being human and not the servants of modern post-industrial society. So it makes sense that Anderson is opening for one of the few bands that has maintained some sense of mystique and one that makes futuristic music commenting on world culture using a more classic music approach but not held back by a sensibility and tradition that emphasizes canon through interpreting the works of past masters. Godspeed! You Black Emperor shows how a group of small, committed people can use their talent and work to use conventional tools to demonstrate unorthodox, and even rebellious, ideas. Its 2017 album Luciferian Towers was released along with a statement reflecting a radical, yet completely sensible, view on international human rights. Maybe the band thought it better to think ahead than let the horrible leaders of the world try to dictate all its narratives.
Sunday | May 20, 2018
Who:Mary Lattimore w/Hannah Samano and Bellhoss When: Sunday, 05.20, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mary Lattimore branches out on her latest album, Hundreds of Days. It’s still the beautifully detailed, intricate ambient melodies that have distinguished her earlier releases. This time out she has experimented more with electric and electronic instruments and equipment as well as her own voice to augment her masterful harp work. Lattimore’s playing has garnered her chances to tour (as a live performer) and collaborate with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Julianna Barwick and gigs doing soundtrack work for the biographical documentaries about Marina Abramović (2012’s The Artist is Present) and Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also from 2012). Lattimore’s broad expressive range and ability to write pieces with a keen ear for the percussive and tonal quality of her instruments is impressive. And timeless. Except for the electronic elements it would be difficult to place Lattimore’s music in time and seeing it live or even listening to it on a recording. Of course if you go see it live you will also get to see how visceral an instrument a harp can be even as its ethereal tones seem to float off into infinity.
What:Noise Night at Syntax Physic Opera: Ambigere (WA), Rasmussen, eMMAoWEN, Mirror Fears, Clutch Plague and Sunk Cost When: Sunday, 05.20, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ultra Metal presents this edition of Noise Night at Syntax. Noise isn’t for everyone but this lineup will be a much more than the cliché of harsh noise and simple pedal chaining. Rasmussen is a member of local noise legends Page 27 but his solo work is often ambient or even in the realm of dance music. Sunk Cost is Ultra Metal founder Johnathan Cash’s harsh noise project and to some it may sound like tuning in to amplified dead stations on the radio. But there is some soundsculpting going on and the visceral impact of those sounds through a P.A.. Mirror Fears is generally known for her brilliantly crafted, melancholic experimental, industrial pop music but as part of her overall musical identity there is the sensibility of noise and the use of sound in ways that simply don’t fit into a standard pop context. Clutch Plague has a more old school industrial, beat driven sound. EMMAoWEN uses soundscaping, harsh noise and sampling to make impactful commentary on culture and touring act, Ambigere from Olympia, Washington, creates sonically tactile environments that are technically ambient but clearly on the harsh end of that spectrum because there’s nothing soothing about it.
Tuesday | May 22, 2018
Who:Wolf Parade w/Japandroids w/Adrian Teacher and The Subs When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Canadian post-punk band Wolf Parade went on indefinite hiatus in 2010 after producing a few of the most interesting rock albums of that time. Rather than the dance punk or Joy Division-esque mode of post-punk, Wolf Parade’s dusky atmospherics were more akin to those of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug’s multifaceted career in and out of Wolf Parade included stints in noteworthy indie bands Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake as well as his solo project Moonface. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner subsequently formed Handsome Furs as well as The Divine Fits (the latter with Britt Daniel of Spoon). Wolf Parade announced its hiatus was over in January 2016 and in 2017 it released Cry Cry Cry on Sub Pop. In support of the album, with clear stylistic nods to recently passed rock icons with David Bowie’s lush and emotionally rich songwriting and Tom Petty’s knack for pop storytelling, the band is currently on tour with another of Canada’s most dynamic rock bands of the moment: Japandroids.
From Vancouver, British Columbia, Japandroids played its own brand of punk and what one might call post-garage with a fiery energy at pretty much every show. Influenced by the likes of The Sonics and Gun Club, Japandroids put out an impressive, albeit relatively small, body of work at two full-length albums and two EPs (collected into a compilation humorously titled No Singles) before going on hiatus itself in 2013. And, purely coincidentally, announced it was back together in 2016 with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, which the band said in interviews was its first attempt to craft an album in a more traditional sense rather than written piecemeal in a headlong rush of being a band in its earlier days. If it didn’t have quite the urgency or ferocity of 2010’s Post-Nothing or 2012’s Celebration Rock, the traces of the record’s Replacements-esque, anthemic power pop was already present on the early material. Japandroids now just sounds bigger to match the intensity with which Brian King and David Prowse continue to bring to the live show.
Who:Kimbra w/Son Lux When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Kimbra earned her bona fides by making soulful and eclectic indie rock that reminded fans and critics of other artists. Fortunately, Kimbra had the chops and talent to warrant glowing comparisons. Her debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a combination of upbeat lounge jazz and electronic pop and reminiscent of an Amy Winehouse record. And the album was critically acclaimed, garnering Kimbra the attention of future high profile collaborators like Mark Foster, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the latter of which performed on Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo. With the 2018 album Primal Heart, Kimbra has broadened her songwriting palette and vocal range, now establishing a style that’s not so easy to compare to her peers and influences.
Who:Y La Bamba w/Malahierba, Stelth Ulvang, DJ A-Train When: Tuesday, 05.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza was born in San Francisco to parents from Mexico and coming up she took in the folk music and folklore of Mexico. She mostly grew up in Oregon and when she formed Y La Bamba in Portland, Mendoza found musicians who shared her musical tastes and inclinations. But rather than a straightforward folk and Americana act, Y La Bamba included, of course, lyrics in Spanish as well as subtle use of electronic instruments to enhance a sense of the otherworldly present in the group’s vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. In a way, the music suggests the feeling one gets from reading the more mystical works of Zora Neal Hurston in which the material world is very tactile but informed by the presence of the spiritual world in the subject matter and the tone of Hurston’s writing. As with Hurston, Mendoza channels her ancestors and their cultural traditions but bringing her own rich imagination and intelligence to bear in her creative interpretation and expression and extension of those ineffable influences.
Wednesday | May 23, 2018
Who:Wye Oak w/Corsicana When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wye Oak is the rare band that has recognized a rut as it’s threatening to happen. With its 2011 album Civilian, the duo’s music was finding placement in film and television and that would have reinforced a creative tendency by rewarding creation using a generally specific method. So the band took some time off from Wye Oak with drummer Andy Stack moving away from Baltimore in search of being around a different sort of artistic climate in Texas and Portland. Guitarist and vocalist Jenn Wasner put time into Dungeonesse, an electronic pop and R&B project with producer Jon Ehrens. When Wye Oak was working on new music it took a different direction with less emphasis on Wasner’s admittedly imaginative and evocative guitar work and more on beats and textured, composed melodies. Thus the 2014 album Shriek and Tween, the 2016 album that all but outlined that transition from the musical thinking of Civilian to that of Shriek. The 2018 Wye Oak album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is the kind of album a band releases after it has reinvented itself and then considered what it would like to say next before doing so.
Who:Starjammer vs. Lunetta, Atari, Sleepy Nemo, Human Hearts and Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Starjammer is difficult to categorize beyond it’s self-described “Avant-Garde/Dub-Reggae.” Seems legit as Squids Madden was recently seen playing sax on stage with Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Ogden. He will also probably bring his lighting rig to add another layer of otherworldliness to this collaborative set with Lunetta, a project that could be described as lo-fi industrial psych. Atari cuts together vinyl records to produce truly unique samples that he manipulates by hand at the live show giving less actual control over frequencies and rhythms from the sample proper. He gives the sounds the contexts and thus the art of what Atari is doing. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess sounds like some kind of weirdo field recording project mixed with intentional music and noise. Basically, the show with the weirdest music this month unless you’re going to an Ultra Metal event.
Who:Bob Log III w/Simulators When: Wednesday, 05.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bob Log III is a one man band who, sure, plays a mutant version of Delta blues but he does wearing a face-obscuring-ly tinted helmet and otherwise looking like maybe he was pulled from a band in Judge Dredd or a reconstituted civilization following the era depicted in the Max Max movies. When he was a member of Doo Rag, Bob Log III’s confrontational performance style won over audiences when he was opening for much more famous bands. Probably because not many people had seen anything quite like it. Opening for Bob in Denver is SIMULATORS, the noise rock/post-punk band comprised of Bryon Parker formerly of Accordion Crimes and Raleigh and Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction. The band’s jagged rhythms and blunt, to the point music should appeal to fans of Shellac because it often does sound that savage.