Who:A.M. Pleasure Assassins and CJ Boyd When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery, Fort Collins Why: Fort Collins’ great lo-fi post-punkers A.M. Pleasure Assassins share the stage with internationally renowned avant-garde punk/folk/ambient/one-man pastoral classical artist C.J. Boyd. The latter is one of the few artists in general that has played in all fifty of the United States. For a decade, Boyd has traversed the country and collaborated with artists from every state and written some of the most accessible and evocative experimental music that defies any absolute categorization. Pick up at any point in his extensive catalog and you’re in for something interesting that will stretch your musical horizons in some fashion. Boyd is playing other shows in Colorado on this leg of his tour and if you’re not able to make this Fort Collins gig it would be worth seeking out where those other shows are happening whether in a house or a DIY space in Colorado Springs like the new Flux Capacitor.
Who:Smokescreens, The Molochs and American Culture When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham were once members of Plateaus and Terry Malts having toured together during the ascent of the garage/psych revival. But by mid-decade both moved to Los Angeles where they formed Smokescreens out of a mutual love for the off-standard melodic strategy of American pop and more in the vein of New Zealand weirdo, jangle-y punk bands of the 80s on the Flying Nun imprint as well as noisier American music like The Velvet Underground and The Aislers Set. One might make a good case for some influence of The Feelies and a touch of Jay Reatard and No Age in there. All of those influences would mean nothing if the songwriters weren’t capable of doing anything interesting or original out of their own skill set. The band’s 2018 album Used to Yesterday is proof that Smokescreens is making some of the more sonically interesting, guitar-driven pop music today. Combining a tenderness and delicacy of tone and texture with great momentum and energy, Smokescreens is a band that is as idiosyncratic as its influences, which is no mean feat given Flying Nun’s catalog of unique greatness alone.
Who:The Magpie Salute w/Brent Cowles When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Formed in 2016 by former members of Black Crowes including Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, The Magpie Salute is perhaps less beholden to the blues rock that was the bedrock of Black Crowes. At least if the band’s new album, 2018’s High Water 1 is any indication. Sure, some of the structure and tones are there but the sonic palette is broader with the band at this point. The title track suggests psych Americana but the album refreshingly doesn’t get stuck in a single mode, mood or dynamic. There’s a 70s feel to the record but one that gives you a greater appreciation for the details that make that songwriting style compelling even today even if you’re heard enough of that sort of thing. Robinson and his bandmates grew up with and within those musical traditions and with this band they’re giving those influences a renewed vitality that is oft-imitated and rarely manifested with this degree of credibility because it doesn’t feel forced and the highly developed songcraft born out of years playing in other bands speaks for itself.
Who:Equine, Tunica Externa, biostatic When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Depth of sound field throughout this show with the guitar drones and tone sculpting of Equine, Tunica Externa’s super minimal soundscapes with guitar and loops and biostatic’s synth, live sampled trumpet and processed sounds. None of the artists is much alike, uses very different methods of making their sounds but all have grounded in a way of making music that isn’t rooted in any particular, pre-established style, which should be recommendation enough for going to this show if you’re looking for something well outside the mainstream.
Friday | August 31, 2018
Who:Under the Floorboards Celebration: Midwife, Bigawatt, Brotherhood of Machines, Curta and Multicast When: Friday, 08.31, 8:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: KGNU’s Under the Floorboards program showcases music that is decidedly left field. So this show will include the minimalist, ambient folk/lo fi production of Midwife, Bigawatt’s operatic avant-post-punk paired with experimental drummer Death Pose, Brotherhood of Machines’ Popol Vuh/dub techno-esque ambient in collaboration with Jake Danna of hip-hop duo Curta. And Multicast, which has been doing ambient music in Colorado for longer than most of the people in Colorado’s quite large ambient scene. With biostatic hosting and serving as a DJ for the night.
Who:Sympathy F When: Friday, 08.31, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Sympathy F came on to Denver stages during the early days of the alternative rock era. Early members of the band included current guitarists Doug Seaman and Tony Morales (who has also been a vocalist in the band from the beginning) and both lived in a building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called The Blenheim, notable for its gateway looking like something from a medieval urban house, where they lived across the hall from future and current vocalist Elizabeth Rose who became fast friends with the two musicians who one day heard her singing along to the music they were writing. The band became a bit of a fixture in the local scene throughout the 90s, releasing one, self-titled album and a handful of cassette and compilation releases before the focus of the musicians went to other projects even though Sympathy F never disbanded. Over the past decade or so, the group has been more active and in 2016 releases its first album in over twenty years with its second self-titled album. It was a compilation of new and older recordings and demos that the members of the band rendered for a more modern release augmented by overdubs and a proper mixing and mastering treatment. At that time the band had intended to release a double album to get its backlog of material out into the world but that didn’t make sense and now the group is releasing what would have been the second half of the double album with a couple of new tracks that reflect new musical ideas that hint at where the group may go in the future with electronics a part of its lushly atmospheric, moody hard rock.The new album, available tonight, is The Blenheim, a nod to the band’s roots and the creative frisson that launched its fruitful and prolific, if not widely available on a recording until recently, career. See our upcoming interview with Seaman on the history of the band and its recent painstaking recording of at least one of its new songs.
Who:EVP w/Pearls and Perils and Gold Trash When: Friday, 08.31, 9 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Glasss Records occupies BarFly for the night. EVP’s pointed personal/political commentary informing its impassioned industrial noise pop will bring some edge to the laid back environs. Gold Trash’s noise-scape-y, beats collage electroclash will demonstrate how you can keep it weird and confrontational yet fun. Pearls and Perils makes downtempo R&B with a rich emotional quality and theatrical stage presence that is impossible to ignore.
Saturday | September 1, 2018
What:Temple Tantrum Day 1 When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m. Where: The Temple Studios Why: Temple Tantrium is a two day festival that encourages attendees to arrive in costume and join in the festivities with twenty musical acts, fourteen art installations, comedy and performance art. For list of artists featured see below.
Music: Council of Word, Porcelain, F-ether, Halo Halo, Ginger Perry, JL Kane, R A R E B Y R D $, Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Plantrae
Visual/installation Artists: Ancient.Future, Charles Russel, Alex Anderson, Kat Nechleba, Kristina Rolander, Ryan Wurst, Izzy Jarvis, Regan Rosberg, Queen City Harlequinade, Kelly ShortNQueer, Tara Worley, Suchitra Mattai, Katine Lowe, Marsha Mack, Sandra Fettingus, Naomi Scheck, Joanne Shminke, Lori Owicz, Brendan Macleod.
Performance art and comedy: No Gods No Masters, Punketry, Gallagher Fest, Jessica L’Whor, Jaguar Morning Show
Who:Big Business w/Simulators and Quits When: Saturday, 09.1, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Big Business is the sludge metal/noise rock band from Seattle comprised of former KARP and Murder City Devils members Jared Warren and Coady Willis. The duo spent a handful of years playing in Melvins where its bombastic, playful and joyous sound fit in with Melvins’ sense of the absurd. For this show the duo will be joined by sharp-edged post-punk band Simulators and eruptive noise rock supergroup Quits which includes former members of Denver-based noise rock outfits Sparkles and Hot White.
Who:Pink Fuzz LP release w/Love Gang and Boot Gun When: Saturday, 09.1, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: BANDITS from Boulder honed its hard blues rock sound for a few years under that name before adopting its new moniker, Pink Fuzz. The group releases what may be it’s first full-length record tonight. Though not a stoner rock band, fans of bands like Fu Manchu and Nebula will probably find a lot to like here.
Sunday | September 2, 2018
What:Temple Tantrum Day 2 When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m. Where: The Temple Studios Why: See the entry for this event above on September 1, 2018. The list of visual/installation artists and performance art and comedy is the same. But musical guests for this day include: Machu Linea, MEEK, Entrancer, ETERNAL, Baby Tony & The Teenies, L.A. Zwicky, Oxeye Daisy, Vic N’ The Narwhals, NEEFF, Nasty Nachos and Pictureplane.
Who:Merrick 25th Anniversary Party with debut of Rocket Dust, Vashion Seeds and Sam & Catherine from AKA Belle When: Sunday, 09.2, 5 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Kelly and Dan Merrick were members of noisy garage punk band The Speedholes in the 90s and early 2000s and were active participants in the vibrant Denver punk scene of that time. Both had roots in the Seattle underground scene of the 80s and 90s and were impacted by Denver musicians who made it to the Pacific Northwest regularly or even made it a home like maybe The Derelicts but certainly The Fluid and Spell. They’re celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the debut of their new band Rocket Dust with this show at Globe Hall.
Tuesday | September 5, 2018
Who:Mondo Obscura and The Counselor (DJ set) When: Tuesday, 09.5, 7 p.m. Where: Chiba Bar | Colorado Springs Why: Denver futuristic new age/ambient band Mondo Obscura lands in Colorado Springs for a two hour live set followed by DJ set from local weirdo The Counselor at a Japanese themed bar. Fortunately it won’t be the “Chiba City Blues” but if some guy named Case shows up looking like he might be hyped on stims and babbles something about Molly Millions and the Panther Moderns just be glad for the distraction and ask him how Acacia Park is treating him.
Wednesday | September 5, 2018
Who:Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever w/Jo Passed When: Wednesday, 09.5, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: On the strength of the material on its first two EPs, 2016’s Talk Tight and 2017’s The French Press, Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever drew favorable comparison by critics like Robert Christgau and Stephen Deusner to influential Australian jangle pop band The Go-Betweens. With the sparkling guitar tone and effluvient, often urgent, dynamics the comparison seems apt. But the band never really sounds like a throwback and especially not so on its 2018 full length Hope Downs wherein the guitar play weaves hanging chords into its bright melodies to convey more fully melancholic undertones and introspective moods. Like American indie rock band LVL UP, RBCF has a real knack for writing songs with a depth of composition using dissonance, textural rhythms and percussive melodies alongside more straightforward guitar work. Live the group performs with a nervy energy that gives what might otherwise be simply solid pop songs a palpable intensity.
Who:Weird Wednesday: KRBS (from Ludlow), Bonnie Weimer, Whimsically Macabre Music When: Wednesday, 09.5, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This latest edition of Weird Wednesday features artists whose music doesn’t necessarily scream out “weird” but in the larger musical sense really is. Bonnie Weimer whose spare, banjo songs are reminiscent of Maureen Tucker solo or on her rare and excellent vocal performances in The Velvet Underground (particularly “After Hours”). Meaning it’s intimate, powerful and a bit mysterious. Presumably KRBS is Josh Kirby from the great Colorado folk/punk band Ludlow doing a solo performance. Kirby has an offbeat, often surreal sense of humor so that’s bound to be part of the set too. Whimsically Macabre Music is a solo piano project of Stacy Fahrion. The music doesn’t hit you over the head with its strangeness. In that sense it has more in common with how many Erik Satie pieces are haunting or various Shirley Jackson novels have an atmosphere just off enough to get under your skin without having to resort to cheap thrills.
Them Are Us Too’s gift to its listeners is a nearly unmatched ability to distill all the pain, disappointment and sadness of a lifetime of unrequited love and rejection by others, by society and ourselves into soaring melodies that sublimate those feelings into ethereal shadows that can no longer overwhelm us even if they can still haunt us. Amends may be the final record from the band due to the tragic death of guitarist Cash Askew in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. But the music’s power to take gentle yet strong rhythms and couple them with intertwining melodies, luminescent and melancholy, as a vehicle for honoring genuine emotional expression is a testament to the duo’s enduring alchemical ability to soothe the spirit.
Pretty much impossible to say when this album was written and recorded post-1980. Its sensibility and aesthetic points to 80s and 90s synth pop. The guitar on “Celeste (Can You Feel It)” sounds like something out of a more ambitious New Wave band but set inside a song that could have come out in the past 10 years among artists tapping into 80s pop sounds to capture a sense of nostalgia. But NEON RESiSTANCE isn’t mining nostalgia. It is doing something more interesting and meta by using an older set of musical parameters and sounds with modern production to evoke a personal style of songwriting that looks forward as many bands of the 80s seemed to be doing but avoiding getting that all wrong by really giving the songs an unusual emotional dimensionality and nuance with nostalgia-tinged melodies as relatable self-reflection and not self-obsession. Sonically it’s difficult to compare this multi-faceted pop record to much of anything else but perhaps Nina Hagen’s 1982 experimental rock/New Wave masterpiece NunSexMonkRock. There was little like that then, there’s little like this now and every track is worth your time.
Wesley Davis seems to generate his albums around themes that express the essence of ideas that have taken up residence in his imagination. 2015’s cloudLanD has an airy, drifty feel suggesting a sense of space and peace. Vaccine’s claustrophobic drones and repeating circular phrases spawn others that intersect in ominous, dissonant patterns suggestive of one set of sounds mutually infecting another to produce a third sound that’s darker with descending tones. Not an anti-vax abstraction, but more a comment on not trusting corporations and moneyed interests to provide a cure. In that way, it’s a bit of a cyberpunk ambient album but one that doesn’t make the dystopia seem kinda cool.
Jake Danna minces no words in his critique of American culture in general and his local community in particular. From the self-appointed expertise on all things and the lives of other people due to the internet and social media (“Ghost Milk”) to the limitations of bravado to dignify one’s life and art (“Prop Comic”) and the poisonous, self-eroding qualities of unreigned-in/unexamined cynicism (“I’m Still Cool, Right? (feat. WC Tank), Danna’s observations are a cogent assessment of the root ills of modern America’s writhing cultural anomy beyond platitudes of left and right. 4Digit’s production as further brought into detail by ManMadeMadMan’s mastering is what shines just as brightly. The beats, the streaming details of sound to accent the mood, tone and texture, the vibrant atmospheres and the masterful flow of melodies to suit the moment are not subtle so much as fully integrated and you get a to take in 4Digit’s imaginative composition with the 26+ minute closing track, “The Life of 4Digit Vol. 1.”
An always engaging listen akin to an unlikely and thus refreshing synthesis of B-52s, Lords of Acid and breakcore, La vie c’est mort from Bordeaux, France’s Daisy Mortem is a sort of decadent industrial dance pop. A lot of American industrial dance groups fall back too much on mediocre 90s EBM. On this EP, Daisy Mortem taps more into mid-80s New Wave’s melodramatic emotionalism but using the sound palette of modern electronic dance music to craft songs with a giant sonic imprint. Imagine the curiously compelling upbeat and alien quality of Classix Nouveaux minus the schlock and with a sprinkling of influence from Sparks and Fad Gadget. If Fellini had lived to make a movie about Bohemian New York City in the 80s, he would have done well to have tapped Daisy Mortem to score the soundtrack because this band is that exact vibe—bombastic, lush and brimming with vitality.
Easily The Damned’s best record since Machine Gun Etiquette. But it would be more honest to say it’s the band’s best record since it’s debut. Most bands more than forty years into their career are creatively treading water. The Damned apparently found some juice in their collective imagination to write an album in the classic style of writing a cohesive record of quality material beginning to end. Most bands write a record this vibrant early in their careers. “We’re So Nice” rocks harder than but has a similarly deft orchestration of melody and harmony one might expect out of The Zombies. It should come as no surprise that Tony Visconti, one of the minds behind shaping the best Bowie records, was on board for Evil Spirits. But even the most brilliant production can’t make up for subpar songwriting. Even if you didn’t know this was The Damned, so many of these songs are striking and timeless. “Shadow Evocation” is like a long lost cousin to something The Moody Blues might have written in the 60s—a windswept, imagination stirring mini-epic. What makes Evil Spirits such a remarkable album is that The Damned prove track to track that they know that if they relied on only one trick, one tempo, one songwriting style they’d bore themselves as much as us and that should count for something in any band much less one that could easily skate along on the laurels of its older classic material. The Damned have create what should in time be considered new classics with this record.
For its final record, Frog Eyes has refined its raw noir Americana sound to a place of great clarity that brings the conflicted emotions into sharp focus. Carey Mercer still sounds like he’s shaken by the force of emotion even as he delivers his words with the confidence and quaver of a Bryan Ferry. With this album, more than previous Frog Eyes releases, each song sounds like a room, an environment, a psychological space Mercer enters with immediate, cogent commentary. At times, as with “Idea Man,” the music feels like the modern equivalent of an early-to-mid-70s Genesis record with the elegance of sonic detail, mysteriousness and grandeur. Maybe Mercer wasn’t listening to a steady diet of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or Foxtrot but this Frog Eyes swan song resonates with the artistic ambition and exploring the possibilities of one’s own songwriting and reach as a musician.
Somewhere in England there’s a high tech train station going to the places where it sounds like Boards of Canada songs take place and this is the gentle effervescent music to put you in the mood to be in a place of peace and disconnect from the rough and tumble everyday world. The cycling tones of “Off Grid” seem aimed to help you reprogram your brain to check out of the ambient anomy that comes with life in the twenty-first century and take a trip through a languidly melodic soundscape for nearly fifty minutes before being dropped off in a beautiful place out in the country.
With heartbreaking imagery throughout, this second album from The Milk Blossoms quickly becomes impossible to resist in drawing you in to tender yet intense emotional experiences that might be off putting to those with an aversion to psychological intimacy at this deep a level. But The Milk Blossoms never seem off putting. The band bares its alchemy of words and sounds with a brave openness borne of knowing you’re speaking truth or at least your truth—a quality that never goes out of style and which can never but completely duplicated as something idiosyncratic to the artist in question. The Milk Blossoms make pop music the way some people make something special for a loved one—with great attention to detail and with a care and affection and without expectation of anything in return. Was this written in an old lighthouse? A treehouse? A cottage in the woods waiting for the winter to thaw? Probably not but it has the feel of taking time out in isolation to allow the nuances and strength of feeling to emerge and find their perfect expression.
This is the sound of the world around us crumbling and eroding and our inability or unwillingness to reverse course. Like the manifestation of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame. Oryx could have pummeled us with some doom-y deathgrind but there is simply a greater diversity of musical ideas here than all of that. The dynamics, for one, while often insistent, leave enough space so that the crushing avalanche of sound hits harder. It also means that, unlike some bands in the realm of extreme metal, Oryx’s songs never truly feel same-y. Across this album the duo pushes the boundaries of what the music can be by fully integrating brutal sonics with atmosphere. Stolen Absolution’s long stretches feel like an intense journey but none that leave you worn out for having taken them.
Featuring what might be the album cover of the year for richness of content alone, Gentle Leader is ten songs in the noise pop vein. Upbeat, irreverent, bordering-on-twee-but-confident, Peach Kelli Pop’s songs have great melodic vocal harmonies and wide ranging rhythms. Closing track “Skylight” reveals the band’s experimental guitar edge hinted at earlier in the record confirming that Peach Kelli Pop has more to offer than the exquisite pop gems that have been a large part of its recorded catalog to date.
The retro-futurist sonic flourishes across this album are reminiscent of a sunny Laurel Canyon psych Broadcast in a pop moment. Or perhaps like Death & Vanilla in that the melodies are nostalgic but the undertones and rhythms suggest a grounding outside the English-speaking music world. As the songs on the album fuzz and incandesce one wonders if the band watched a whole lot of reruns of The Ed Sullivan Show and nailed the vibe and the aesthetic when old Ed had on the hippest guests that didn’t have to compromise and could just shine on a program where the evils of the modern music industry weren’t so firmly in place to insidiously influence and water down popular music into the lowest common denominator product, rather when taste makers had taste and a sense of adventure. Do Right may be retro and couched in a sense of nostalgia but the details on album closer “Do You Know The Place,” and throughout the record, those qualities sound surprisingly fresh at a time when looking back four or five decades and more for inspiration is so played out.
The track names on this album from Denver based synth supergroup Synth-Drone collective suggest a collective telling of life in some far flung future akin to Larry Niven’s Tales of Known Space but with the dark cloak of a minimalist, existentialist Tarkovsky science fiction film like Stalker. The name of the album doesn’t spell out but hints at the scientists of the time depicted in this album searching in earnest for the real science equivalent of the mythical first sound, the teleological ground zero vibration, that launched the universe into dynamic life because it has been discovered that the universe is dying and the only thing that can reverse the process is to discover the appropriate wavelengths to stop the impending doom of all and everything. Except someone in the scientific community knows it’s all for naught and just another attempt by sentient beings to interfere with the natural order of things with the hubristic notion that mortals can fix anything if they set their minds to it when in fact by our temporal nature and perspective we can never known enough to impact everything. Which is a downer but in the case of this album, it’s a beautifully compelling, drone-driven soundscape of a time when humans and other intelligent creatures have to learn to accept the inevitable.
There’s always been a bit of a cinematic quality to Wye Oak’s music and one might perhaps clumsily say the new album is to If Children what Fargo is to Blood Simple—not massively better but more sophisticated, more intentionally stylized with its newfound skill set and sonic palette. The melding of acoustic instruments and electronic production is so complete that the band seems to effortlessly bring to bear tones, rhythms, textures, melodies and atmospheres to craft songs as experiences. Wye Oak hasn’t ditched classic songwriting methods and models, it’s just taken those structures and filled them out with rich content. But what does Wye Oak have to say this time around? Refreshingly the band asks more questions than providing a set perspective. At a time when too many bold-yet-curiously-vapid-and-trite statements are made in the public sphere, it’s asking thoughtful questions and pondering issues about life and the world without a sense of one’s own certainty as a nod to the fact that we can’t know everything while not discrediting our own thoughts and feelings that makes this record remarkable. The title suggests chasing after goals while those goals we are encouraged to think of as ends in themselves become elusive and we are forced to really think about what it is we’re all on about and if the chase is worth it in the end. Because of that, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs really is the kind of record that needs to be out in the world questioning the dominant paradigm not with firebrand skepticism but compassionate curiosity for ourselves and others.
Who:Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.
Who:Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.
Who:Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.
Friday | August 10, 2018
Who:Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.
Who:Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.
Who:Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.
Who:Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.
Saturday | August 10, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.
Who:Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.
Who:Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.
Who:GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.
Who:Goon, faim, Soul Vice When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.
Who:Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.
Tuesday | August 14, 2018
Who:The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.
Who:Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.
Who:Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.
Wednesday | August 8, 2018
Who:Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2 When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.
Who:Beach House w/Sound of Ceres When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.
Who:Father John Misty with TV On the Radio When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.
Who:The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why:The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.
Who:DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.
Who:Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.
Friday | March 30, 2018
Who:Monocle Band & The Dress Downs When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.
Who:Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.
Who:Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Bar Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.
Who:Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.
Tuesday | April 3, 2018
Who:Pale Waves w/Inheaven When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.
Who:A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.
Wednesday | April 4, 2018
Who:The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain IIon May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.
Who:Moaning and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/Curta When: Thursday, 03.22, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Listening to Nnamdi Ogbonnaya’s 2017 album Drool on Father/Daughter Records it should come as no surprise that the multi-instrumentalist is no stranger to how to employ sounds to their full effect and with a striking level of creativity. Is the music on the album hip-hop? Yes, but in the same sense that one might say the same of Thundercat, Serengeti or even Flying Lotus. It is hip-hop while transcending simple genre. It’s like brightly toned, experimental pop music without trying to be “experimental.” Ogbonnaya’s deft wordplay in the context of the music, each informing the other, gives the songs and their tales of everyday life and its struggles a heightened focus, a high contrast emotional experience to the point where it has a quality of otherworldliness like a Rudy Rucker or Pat Cadigan novel as both writers write about serious subjects in vivid detail but not without a sense of play and natural humor. That Ogbonnaya is sharing the stage with Denver’s dystopian sci-fi hip-hop act Curta and Los Angeles-based post-punk band Moaning and its gritty yet lush melodies just triples the appeal of the bill.
Sunday | March 25, 2018
Who:Textures: Distance Research, Offthesky and Paw Paw When: Sunday, 03.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This month’s edition of the Textures Ambient Showcase includes some of Colorado’s most interesting sound sculptors. Distance Research is visual artist Sean Faling’s ambient/modular synth project of several years. Seeing as Faling is a bit of a synth collector and connoisseur, he brings something different and intentional in its composition to every performance. Offthesky combines the free flowing aesthetic of ambient and the programmed beats methodology of modern electronic dance music to create the kind of engulfing, atmospheric music that sounds like what it might be like to visit some future, technological society that has managed to develop beyond the sort of mass environmentally destructive industrial society we live in today. Paw Paw blends organic guitar loops and streams with hypnotic electronic beats.
Monday | March 26, 2018
Who:Twin Peaks and The Districts w/Panther Martin When: Monday, 03.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Twin Peaks came up through Chicago’s DIY music scene at a time when the recent garage rock and garage punk revival reinvigorated that circuilt of music with energy and immediately relatable music. Twin Peaks crested that wave by, well, being better songwriters than many of the neo-garage rock bands. Even its debut full-length, 2013’s Sunken, seemed unusually developed and imaginative for a band that many critics described as, let’s face it, yet another modern band copping a 60s vibe in the 2010s. Twin Peaks’ synthesis of Rolling Stones, 70s power pop, T. Rex and The Reatards has so far at least yielded songs that brim with life and attitude of its own rather than merely mimicking an already successful style. The group’s new record Sweet ’17 Singles Series is less raw than, say, 2014’s Wild Onion, but the injection of a little soulfulness into the sound has just given the band’s songwriting a bit of depth to match its aims to write solid rock songs at a time when rock has gotten a little stale all over again.
The Districts from Pennsylvania are more on a folk-rooted end of modern rock music. Which in 2018 could, and often is, so played out. But the contrast between the band’s expansive dynamics and bright tonality is a fascinating contrast with lyrics that dig deep into places in the psyche one would rather forget only to come up with some strikingly wise insights about the complicated emotions we have to tangle with as we age beyond merely becoming an adult. The Districts’ 2017 album Popular Manipulations is brimming with unusually thoughtful songs in that vein.
Panther Martin is a Denver band that sounded initially like it came from similar roots to The Districts and Twin Peaks and like both of those bands found its footing and its own voice in challenging itself to evolve beyond its early influences. On the 2017 EP Drats the group displays more than a post-Strokes aesthetic and certainly many of Panther Martin’s recent live videos point in fascinating directions one might not suspect from listening to its earlier output. A perfect local opener for a bill like this.
Who:Secret Drum Band, Poppet and Sam Humans When: Monday, 03.26, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Secret Drum Band is a collaborative project between composers Lisa Schonberg, Allan Wilson and Heather Treadway and a variety of musicians attempting to create textured soundscapes with a quality that mimics aspects of the natural world. Its 2017 debut album Dynamics is like an avant-garde, tribal ritual captured for posterity. Pretty different for people like Wilson who was once in Chk Chk Chk, Treadway who was in Explode into Colors and Sara Lund, former drummer of Unwound. Definitely for fans of the more experimental end of prog like Magma and Faust.
Tuesday | March 27, 2018
Who:Dark Rooms w/Mobley When: Tuesday, 03.27, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dark Rooms and its soul-infused downtempo is noteworthy on its own as is the group’s latest record, 2017’s Distraction Sickness. But Daniel Hart may be better known behind the scenes as a musician who has scored several films for director David Lowery whose 2017 movie A Ghost Story garnered no small amount of critical praise in addition to becoming a bit of a cult movie already since its release. The Dark Rooms song “I Get Overwhelmed” appeared in A Ghost Story so here’s a rare chance to see it live. Also on the bill is Austin-based one-man band Mobley. A filmmaker and multi-media artist in his own right, Mobley plays various instruments throughout his set. Mobley refers to his music as “post-genre pop” meaning he conceptualizes his music in the form of pop but utilizing various sounds and strategies to suit the song. On April 27 his new album, Fresh Lies, Vol. 1 drops and its the beginning of a kind of song cycle that explores the complexities of his relationship with America. Soon we will be publishing an interview with Mobley conducted during Treefort Music Fest where more of the story behind what inspired the new album and forthcoming volumes from this imaginative and thoughtful artist.
Who:A Light Among Many (tour finale), Giardia, Church Fire, Feigning When: Tuesday, 03.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A Light Among Many is based out of Lyons, Colorado, a town a little off the beaten path but close enough to bigger cities to have access to a place to perform his brand of constructed environment ambient music. Constructed may be the wrong term as it sounds like stuff Franklin Binder imagined walking in forests and canyons well away from human civilizations, the product of taking in the un-orange-hazed midnight sky, raw emotions flowing free unpenned in by interference from the immediate presence of other humans and their urban constructs. Of course there is the aspect of curation in capturing the recordings and putting them out in a coherent manner but it feels like something primal and coming direct from the psyche. Giardia might cross over into the realm of metal but its 2017 album Structure Fire sounds like some kind of cross between black metal, Frank Zappa and jazzy psychedelia. Church Fire may be a little occult for some people with a name like that, but it’s also one of the most interesting bands today with its vital blend of pop, industrial, noise and performance art minus any pretension.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Jim Davies (GA), Universal Devils and Enji When: Thursday, 03.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: This half of March’s programme for Musical Mayhem at the Skylark includes Georgia-based weirdo songwriter Jim Davies, solo videogram soundtrack-esque multi-instrumental looper Enji and Universal Devils. The latter is Tricky Dick Wicket, the drummer for Little Fyodor & Babushka band for over a decade. Universal Devils is his solo project in which he plays guitar, drums and other instruments in a kind of truly unique mix of metal and country and blues. Calling it “avant-garde” doesn’t quite do it justice because it’s accessible with pretty conventional songwriting even if the sounds used in the way they’re used are far from mundane.
Who:Elettrodomestico (Jane Wiedlin and Pietro Straccia) When: Thursday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Jane Wiedlin is doing a Q&A before this performance for the screening of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Afterward, her band Elettrodomestico will perform in BarFly, the bar/venue attached to Alamo Drafthouse on West Colfax. The band formed in December 2016 following The Go-Go’s’ “Farewell Tour” (the great new wave band will perform again in 2018) when Wiedlin and Italian musician Pietro Straccia bonded over their mutual love the then recently passed David Bowie. The band the duo started is pretty different from The Go-Go’s and Bowie except for a knack for writing energetic pop songs with a little grit and thoughtfulness and mood to give the music some depth thematically and musically. To the credit of both artists Elettrodomestico is in no way riding anyone’s legacy or coattails. Rather, like Cindy Wilson formerly of the B-52s, it’s a reinvention and one worth listening to separate from any past associations.
Friday | March 9, 2018
Who:Terminals, Gort Vs. Goom, New Standards Men, Pygmy Grizzly, Frank Bell When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Bar Why: This appears to be a bill of instrumental-focused, experimental music rooted in rock sounds and aesthetics bands. Terminals is sort of an improv post-rock/post-industrial band with guitars, synths, drums, bass. No set is ever the same but the group is more than capable of generating deep atmospheric magic. Gort Vs. Goom is a drums and electric bass duo who make the kind of music that could be described as what might happen if the Melvins set out to make a surf band dedicated to Minutemen. Sure the guys in GVG have vocals but it’s almost like surreal slam poetry. New Standards Men are probably a post-punk band but their sound sounds like it drew heavy influence from some of the more experimental bands on the Thrill Jockey imprint. Like Tortoise or A Minor Forest but with some expansive noise tones in the mix.
Who:Larians (Noah Simons solo), Houseplants, Jumanjihad When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Noah Simons is perhaps best known for being the charismatic singer of post-punk band Male Blonding. But his musical interests range pretty far and his solo project Larians, which hasn’t performed live since maybe an RTD (Ready To Dance) event at Rhinoceropolis in 2014, is more in an experimental electronic music and dubtechno vein. Think something like Plaid’s tranquil melodics and use of synth strings alongside Burial-esque bass sculpting and persistent yet dissolving and reconfiguring atmospheres as an element of the beat. How will this all sound at Denver Bicycle Café rather than the main room at The Black Box? You’ll have to show up to find out. But for a taste of what Larians is about, Simons released the excellent “Dwell Led” single in February 2018.
Saturday | March 10, 2018
Who:Kikagaku Moyo w/Tjutjuna and DJ Rett Rogers When: Saturday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kikagaku Moyo is a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock/avant-garde band. With its roots in a project between Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada busking the streets of Japan’s most populous metropolis, Kikagaku Moyo has, to some extent, gone against the grain of Japanese culture in the way Ghost did when it started up in the 80s similarly playing music on the streets, subways and ruins of ancient temples in and around Tokyo. Kikagaku Moyo got its proper start as a band when Go’s brother Ryu returned from learning sitar from one of the world’s masters, Manilal Nag in India. Incorporating elements of noise and ambient music, Kikagaku Moyo’s songs express a broad range of sonic experimentation from extended psych freakout jams to tranquil yet haunted folk songs. Unlike many bands that have dipped into the realm of psychedelia and prog, this Japanese quintet doesn’t get stuck in a single or predictable mode. Sharing the stage this night is Denver-based experimental psych band Tjutjuna. Also with musical inspirations traceable to the more out 70s prog and Japanese psych/noise bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Tjutjuna’s hypnotic oeuvre set itself apart from the trendy psych stuff that seemed to hover at the edges of all popular rock music from 2008 onward.
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Dr. Zilog and Smellephant
When: Saturday, 03.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Daikaij is to surf rock what Crash Worship was to noise and post-punk—as experienced, as much an exuberant collective cult ritual as music. Catch the band tonight at 7th Circle or Sunday at the Triple Nickel in Colorado Springs.
Who:King Eddie (video release) w/déCollage When: Saturday, 03.10, 10 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Tonight King Eddie releases the video for “Enter the Man” from its 2017 boundary pushing psychedelic rock album Holographic Universe. Both that band and the playfully surrealistic psychedelic pop band déCollage will perform before a screening of Renée Laloux’s 1973 animated science fiction classic Fantastic Planet. King Eddie sounds like maybe the music had its origins in writing what had become a trendy psych rock but Jay Mars and his bandmates injected heaps of imagination into the songwriting and arrangements to produce a body of work that synthesizes pop, psych and the avant-garde with the aesthetics of the virtual reality visuals that have become a bit of a specialty for Mars.
Wednesday | March 14, 2018
Who:Uppermost w/Snubluck and Zurc When: Wednesday, 03.14, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Behdad Nejatbakhshe, aka Uppermost, left his life trajectory into a career as a lawyer to pursue making music. Eight albums in, with the forthcoming Perseverance due out March 23, Uppermost has created a body of work that is a synthesis of pure electronic production and more analog musical elements. For instance on his 2017 album, the loosely space-themed Origins, the producer incorporated live guitar and orchestral arrangements in the recording process. The songs tend to have a bright, upbeat quality with a quality that suggests peaceful spring days and gentle breezes. That Uppermost is inspired by the likes of Burial, Flume and Bonobo should come as no surprise since his own compositions have a soothing yet energetic quality as well. With Perseverance, Uppermost has crafted a body of songs that have an expansive spaciousness with a daydream-y quality that first came back into vogue with the so-called chillwave artists—bright tones, hypnotic yet uplifting atmospheric swells and smooth but irresistible low end. The record feels built for summer nights at casual hangouts with friends and is arriving just in time.
Who:Cars & Trains and Curta album release w/Utajahs and Nighttimeschoolbus visuals by Skyrider When: Wednesday, 03.10, 8 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Curta’s new record, End of Future Park, sounds like the natural progression from its dystopian predecessor, 2015’s Replica. Curta’s music has always seemed to sit somewhere between the no-rules-use-of-sounds beatmaking of turn of the century alternative hip-hop, industrial, noise and collage sound composition. End of Future Park is no different but with that album, rapper Jake Danna captures the time between 2016 and 2017 (and, let’s be real, 2018 so far) when underground culture seemed to be under attack and the erosion of all civil institutions and of civility itself and the postmodern nihilism as expressed in a completely understandable cynicism that has blighted the public and personal discourse seemingly everywhere you go. Across the whole record, Danna confronts his own cynicism and there’s a bit of a different feel to this record than a lot of music coming out of late in a way more people probably need to hear—a tone of wanting to find and create a self and a society where that deep rooted cynicism isn’t entirely justified. The record comes out on March 19, 2018 but you can probably pick up a copy at this show where also on the bill is Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo that answers the question of what happens when an idiosyncratic indie pop artist teams up with a masterful alternative hip-hop producer.
Who:The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.
The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.
As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.
Who:Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Your Mom’s House Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.
Who:Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.
Who:Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.
Friday: October 27, 2017
Who:Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.
Who:Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.
Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.
Who:Church Fire and Motion Trap When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: Black Shirt Brewery Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.
Who:Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.
Who:Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.
Saturday: October 28, 2017
Who:Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.
Who:TR/ST When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.
Who:Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World) When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.
Who:Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.
Who:Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.
Who:Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Other Side Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.
Sunday: October 29, 2017
Who:Ministry w/Death Grips When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.
Who:Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.
Who:2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.
Who:Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.
Monday: October 30, 2017
Who:Cobalt, Worry and Fathers When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.
Who:Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.
Tuesday: October 31, 2017
Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225 When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.
Who:Itchy-O w/Altas When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.
Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.
Who:Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.
Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.
Wednesday: November 1, 2017
Who:Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.
By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.
Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.
Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.
Who:Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.
Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.