What:Oryx, Cthonic Deity and Zygrot When: Thursday, 1.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: In the realm of Denver extreme metal it would be hard to find a more solid line-up this month than this. Oryx is perhaps rightfully considered a doom band but its wall of noise is a shifting, mind-altering experience that creatively uses drones and riffs to comment on the world in a way the reflects and exorcises the sense of despair at the way our economic and political system normalizes the ways in which our lives are eroded through the environment, the fake prosperity figures that hide the poverty and desperation that permeates much of society in America and elsewhere and a cultural climate that favors a cultural identity anchored to the fortunes of the world’s oligarchs. And yet it’s not a bummer, there are hopes and dreams in its grinding and harrowing aesthetic. Cthonic Deity released one of the most promising fusions of death metal and hardcore with 2019’s Reassembled in Pain. Zygrot is a crusty grindcore quartet that releases its self-titled debut in September 2019.
What:Origami Angel, Short Fictions, Flora De Luna and Obtuse When: Saturday, 1.11, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Origami Angel is a band from the Washington, D.C. area that is mining a similar sonic territory as bands in the past half decade or more going beyond the neo-pop punk into a hybrid of math-y emo and indie pop. So a bit retro but at least not yet another band thinking it is discovering Laurel Canyon all over again and with earnest, heartfelt performances. Obtuse is a like-minded band from Denver whose 2019 album Who’s Askin’ is a gloriously raw and incisive examination of one’s insecurities as a normal reaction to a society and economic system seemingly designed to make everyone feel like an inadequate failure. Their songs are an acknowledgment of those anxieties and an attempt to not be completely sunk by them.
What:New Ben Franklins and I’m a Boy 7” split release When: Saturday, 1.11, 10 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Long running alt-country/American band New Ben Franklins and power pop sensations I’m A Boy are releasing their split 7” tonight at The Skylark.
What:Total 80s Live with Bow Wow Wow w/When in Rome and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Sunday, 1.12, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Bow Wow Wow is an English New Wave band assembled by then Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 when he convinced members of Adam Ant’s band to form a new group that was fronted by 13-year-old Annabella Lwin who McLaren had heard singing along to the radio at her laundromat job. The other singer of the band in the beginning was George O’Dowd who left the group early and became famous as Boy George of Culture Club and as a solo artist. Bow Wow Wow somehow managed to break into the mainstream with hit songs like “C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!” and a lively cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 recording of “I Want Candy.” This current version of the band will not include Lwin who hasn’t been in this iteration of Bow Wow Wow since 2013, now performing as Annabella Lwin of the original Bow Wow Wow.” So while it won’t be the original line-up except for bassist Leigh Gorman, you can hear those hits as well as When in Rome whose 1987/1988 single “The Promise” has been a staple of 80s synth pop playlists for decades. The Vanilla Milkshakes are a pop punk band with attitude and an offbeat sense of humor that will probably make the nostalgia seekers wonder how they got on the bill but end up liking a lot of the songs in spite of themselves.
Wednesday | January 15
What:Weird Wednesday: Yao Guai, Lady of Sorrows and e-scapes When: Wednesday, 1.15, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday this month includes ambient prog project Yao Guai, emotionally expressive darkwave solo act Lady of Sorrows and experimental synth pop composer e-scapes.
What:Turvy Organ album release w/Panther Martin, Sour Boy Bitter Girl When: Thursday, 06.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:The Ghost at the Feast is Denver indie rock band Turvy Organ’s new record. What has always set the group apart from the oft-necessary but lazy “indie rock” overarching term is that it most certainly is not operating to jump on some trendy sound or bandwagon. Yes, you’ll hear the echoes of Modest Mouse in some of Ilya Litoshik’s vocals but from there the dynamics of the music and the songwriting is too idiosyncratic to fit into the mold of anyone else. The new album has what sounds like a story arch trying to make sense of a deep yearning for place and identity and coming to accept things as they are. Very Zen. But that journey is one worth taking with the band. There isn’t a single sonic flavor Turvy Organ employs across the album except for maybe some tasty, energetic melodic bass lines. That may even be how the record ties together outside of Litoshik’s highly charged and wide-ranging vocals. Splicing together post-punk moodiness and wiry energy with the frayed musical and emotional edges of 90s lo-fi rock, Turvy Organ has not just come to terms with what it’s about as a band The Ghost at the Feast but with what it’s like to be an underground rock band at this juncture in our culture where if you’re not doing it for the right reasons you’ll undermine your goals by not seeming honest.
What:TOKiMONSTA w/Holly and Blackbird Blackbird When: Thursday, 06.13, 9 p.m. Where: Club Vinyl Why: TOKiMONSTA garnered a name for herself for crafting imaginative and lush downtempo beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the body of work of some of the more melancholy artists on the Warp and Stones Throw roster. She has a real gift for expansive, complimentary synth lines and multiple layers of percussion to accent the tempo of her songs. As a DJ TOKiMONSTA mixes in plenty of material from across a broad spectrum of modern electronic music.
Friday | June 14
What:Electric Funeral Fest Night 1 When: Friday, 06.14, 3 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive/3 Kings Why: This is the fourth edition of Electric Funeral Fest which features some of the most interesting acts in underground “extreme” and experimental metal. Tonight’s programme is as follows:
What:Anderson .Paak w/Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat When: Friday, 06.14, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Three of the most creatively brilliant artists of modern hip-hop on one bill anywhere would be noteworthy, at Red Rocks it would be deserving of the word epic.
What:Sympathy F When: Friday, 06.14, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Formed in 1991, Sympathy F is one of the few, if not only, still active bands from Denver’s alternative rock era whose melancholic, jazz-inflected, dream pop reflects an era in Denver where the city felt dark, neglected and wide open. When creative weirdos could rent a warehouse on the relatively cheap and hang out with each other and converse and mutually inspire and otherwise have their own subculture that was vibrant and not well known by the world outside the Mile High City. When downtown had viaducts (Fifteenth and Twentieth Streets) that went from downtown proper to a now long gone warehouse district, where the old Montgomery Wards build stood west of downtown like the abandoned monolithic structure from a bygone era. That the band’s songs are emotionally powerful and moving and intense yet luminous doesn’t hurt because it has been written from a place of nostalgia, but at its heart is a shard of that unique time and place in Denver’s history and it shines forth from the band’s entrancing performances.
What:Daikaiju When: Friday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Writing about Daikaiju seems folly at this moment so here’s a video that gets at some of the chaotic glory of the weirdo surf band from Alabama.
What:Lazarus Horse, Mt. Illimani, Enji and Sam Morris When: Friday, 06.14, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Maybe Eddie Durkin shoulda zigged when he shoulda zagged here and there in life. But haven’t we all? His old band Sparkler Bombs was pushing punk and noise rock and modern proto-psychedelia in interesting directions. But nearly a decade hence, Durkin has been writing songs under various project names including Lazarus Horse. Imagine if someone somehow bought Rainwater Cassette Exchange, The Glow Pt. 2 and a few Julianna Barwick and Grouper records pluse The Velvet Underground & Nico and got sent off with their parents to scientific station duty at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas with spotty internet but a good instruments and pedals and some recording equipment. That’s basically what Lazarus Horse sounds like—drawing on the weirdo rock familiar while sounding ineffably different from even that.
Saturday | June 15
What:Tacocat and The Paranoyds w/Princess Dewclaw When: Saturday, 06.15, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Seattle’s Tacocat and L.A.’s The Paranoyds are making thought-provoking and emotionally nuanced fuzzy post-surf-punk pop with a refreshing level of depth and spirited energy. Although Tacocat has been associated with the sort of surf punk thing the past decade it’s always been different from all of that because its songwriting has been brimming with irreverent humor, playfulness and a surreal and colorful aesthetic. The cover of its new album This Mess is a Place is striking when you see it at the record store and draws you in with its inviting, retrofuturistic collage style promising something within that will offer interesting stories and perspectives that aren’t trend hopping or trite blandishments about love or needing to always center all content on what’s topical. In that way Tacocat offer a view of a more interesting and vital future for all of us. Paranoyds can be reminiscent of The Raincoats if that band came from southern California instead of London with the wonderful, unconventional choruses and noisy guitar. Watch out for the group’s new 7-inch “Hungry Sam”/”Trade Our Sins” out on Suicide Squeeze July 12.
What:Electric Funeral Fest IV When: Saturday, 06.15, 3 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: See above for Electric Funeral Fest IV. Here is this night’s programme of performances:
4:40 – 5:20 Casket Huffer
5:40 – 6:20 Sun Voyager
6:40 – 7:20 Trapped Within Burning Machinery
7:40 – 8:20 The Munsens
8:40 – 9:20 Fotocrime
9:40 – 10:20 Call of The Void
10:40 – 11:25 Dead Meadow
12:45 – 1:25 Bummer
Mutiny Information Cafe Stage:
3:00 – 3:40 Red Mesa
4:00 – 4:40 Upon a Fields Whisper
5:00 – 5:40 Horseneck
6:00 – 6:40 Dizz Brew
7:00 – 7:40 Dysphotic
What:Jamila Woods w/Duendita When: Saturday, 06.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jamila Woods recently released Legacy! Legacy! with song titles drawn from names of some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers of color from America and beyond. Rarely do musicians name check the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters and others of similar cachet at all much less with such style and soulfulness. Woods’ voice is commanding and wise and one gets the sense you’re learning something about the human beings named as they impacted Woods as a person and an artist in her own right. She doesn’t pretend to speak for them but reflect their deep influence through her own lens and how their work has inspired her to do what she hopes is interesting and worthy in her own right. It’s a deep record worth repeated listens. Fans of Nina Simone and Erykah Badu should give Woods a listen.
Sunday | June 16
What:Natural Velvet, Church Fire, Rabbit Fighter and Bert Olsen When: Sunday, 06.16, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Natural Velvet bassist/singer Corynne Ostermann told the Baltimore Sun in 2016 “’Basically, we aim to be a “Sailor Moon” villainess.’” And who wouldn’t want to see that band? Apparently a post-punk band it sure has some nefarious punk energy but the fun kind like what you might imagine a raccoon is thinking. A good fit with Denver’s industrial dance pop powerhouse trio Church Fire whose subversive and politically charged music is not just cathartic but deeply emotional on multiple levels. This is the last show post-punk/dream pop duo Bert Olsen is playing under that name. The group recently lost its drummer and is changing to maybe using a drum machine and changing focus a bit and taking on the name Gila Teen. But it’ll still be Hunter Woods and Aidan Bettis on vocals/guitar and bass respectively so the same luminously evocative songwriting will remain.
Tuesday | June 18
What:Pile w/State Champion and Warring Parties When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pile has long been making the kind of post-punk/noise punk/lo-fi music that never really sounds like anyone else. Its new record Green and Gray is filled with the band’s signature, and always interesting, counter-point guitar riffing and richly varied song dynamics. The group switches up the pace in a song, conveying the way a mood will pass through your mind as you’re working through memories and contemplating what your life should be about and diving deep into how it really is. All their records are worth a listen and the latest one may be their best.
What:Charly Bliss w/Emily Reo When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: On 2017’s Guppy, Charly Bliss sounded a bit like other bands mining the 90s, fuzzy alternative pop bands for inspiration but with great energy and Eva Hendricks’ ebullient vocals. With Young Enough the group’s emotional palette seems to have grown exponentially and its sound evolved into a kind of atmospheric power pop but somehow without losing the verve that powered its full-length debut.
What:Lavender Fest Denver: Where in the Hell is Lavender House? The Longmont Potion Castle Story (screening) When: Tuesday, 06.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Longmont Potion Castle is the phone prank wizard extraordinaire of all time. His early use of odd sound processing methods for prank calling in the 80s and early 90s went above and beyond other, perhaps more well-known prank call “comedians.” Still mysterious after all these years someone finally made a documentary about his exploits and it’s screening tonight at the Oriental.
What:Operators w/Doomsquad When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dan Boeckner is best known for being in some of the most interesting rock bands of the past two decades including Wolf Parade and Divine Fits. But in the past five years and more he’s been in a band that now includes Devojka, Sam Brown and Dustin Hawthorne that has been exploring the use of analog synths to write the kind of bright, brooding pop songs that wouldn’t sound out of place at some weird “New Wave” in the early 80s that hosted the likes of Gary Numan, Sparks and Fad Gadget. Rather than simply ethereal melodies, Operators has a robust low end in its mix giving the music some real power and momentum rather than merely sounding pretty. The quartet is currently touring in support of its 2019 full-length Radiant Dawn.
Wednesday | June 19
What:Wand w/Dreamdecay When: Wednesday, 06.19, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Wand bridged the gap between weirdo, psychedelic lo-fi rock à la Pavement with the heaviest metal but without ever come off live like a metal band. More like indie rock nerds who never had to turn their nose up at the kinds of dynamics and sounds one heard in 70s hard rock, prog, the more inspired jam bands and stuff like Sleep. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album Laughing Matter. On the latter it sounds like the group has been listening to some more post-punk and post-rock like Slint.
What:Mastodon and Coheed and Cambria and Every Time I Die When: Wednesday, 06.19, 5 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: On Mastodon’s 2009 album Crack the Sky the Atlanta-based metal quartet aimed to write their version of a classic rock album with strong melodies and great mood and solid songwriting. True enough the overall tenor of the record with its dynamics out of step with most metal at the time, but anticipating where so many rock bands, not just metal, would go over the next decade. This is sort of a Tenth Anniversary type tour but the band recently recorded an homage to its late manager Nick John called “Stairway to Nick John” that is a cover of the Led Zeppelin song that some people may have heard at some point in their lives. The single was released on Record Store Day and the proceeds are going to benefit the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.
Who:Ryanhood w/Matt Cox When: Thursday, 06.07, 7 p.m. Where: Walnut Room Why: Ever since Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, at a minimum, popularized folk pop to a massive audience more than a few musicians have tried their hands at that style of music. But Ryanhood predates that wave having started in 2003 in Boston (now based in Tucson, AZ where Green and Cameron Hood met in high school). And beyond that, Ryanhood has established itself as a popular live act on the college and small club circuit. Ryan Green’s proficiency with guitar got him a scholarship to Berklee but as a songwriter it gives some dimensionality to the songwriting that might not be there with a musician who came to playing more casually. Green’s songs with Hood, at this point, have the polish and tunefulness of anything you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio combined with the synergy that mostly comes from musicians who have known each other for a good deal of their lives growing together as artists. The duo’s 2017 album Yearbook is a record diverse in its emotional colorings and songwriting dynamics giving its positive sheen depth and listening longevity.
Who:Stella Luce 7” release for Gloria w/Señorita Sometimes and Seven Inches of Heaven When: Thursday, 06.07, 9 p.m. Where: Surfside 7 Why: Stella Luce is presenting its sixth release, the Gloria seven inch, tonight at Surfside 7. The Fort Collins-based experimental rock band combines an Eastern European musical sensibility with the kind of baroque pop that The Dresden Dolls and DeVotchKa perfected. Stella Luce, though a little weirder than both, and noisier, has created a body of work thus far with the same cinematic sweep and nuanced emotional colorings.
Friday | June 8, 2018
What:71 Grind IV Day 1 (see below) When: Friday, 06.08, 2 p.m. Where: The Black Sheep and Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This is the major metal festival in Colorado. Independently run and promoted it features some of the most interesting acts in extreme and death metal, doom and grindcore. Things get kicked off at 2 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes in the late night hours at The Triple Nickel Tavern. For this first day you can catch Denver’s deathgrind stars Of Feather And Bone at the Black Sheep at 6:40 p.m.. The trio just started its tour in the wake of the release of its latest album, Beastial Hymns of Perversion. Immediately after at 7 p.m. on the main stage is Seattle’s black/folk metal act Isenordal will bring its layered, orchestral sound. For fans of Giant Squid and SubRosa. You can’t really miss with any of the bands but it would also be a good chance to see Wyoming’s great, grind-y, post-hardcore band Euth, Denver’s melodic doom giants, Wayfarer and Denver D-beat/thrash juggernauts Rotstrotter. Full schedule below.
Black Sheep Side Floor Stage
5-5:20 Portrayal Of Guilt
6:40-7 Of Feather And Bone
7:30-7:50 Void Omnia
8:20-8:40 Closet Witch
2:20-2:40 Full Bore
3-3:20 Salems Bend
8:40-9:10 Transient w/Bastard Noise
11:30-11:50 Ice Sword
1-1:30 Tejon St. Corner Thieves
Who:Today’s Paramount, Samvega and Archipelaghost When: Friday, 06.08, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: This is a bill where none of the bands really fit in any musical subscene. Nor are they trying and the show is the better for that. Today’s Paramount has bits of gypsy folk, Americana, psychedelia and metal but really it’s more like some kind of odd glam prog band that dresses up like they’re all lead gumshoes in a noir novel. Samvega similarly skirts the edges of sludge metal, psychedelic rock and prog without being tied down by the conventions of any of it. Its sonically powerful shows feel orchestrated but only in that they have played the music so much they’re comfortable executing it in a way that leaves plenty of room to change moods, tempos and emotional colorings to fit the environment. If Archipelaghost’s recent single “Spinach” is any indication, those guys listen to a lot of the better hip-hop utilizing trap tracks while crafting their own electronic beats and burned the memo on not using kinda crap autotune. Archipelaghost takes musical ideas that shouldn’t work and puts it together in a way that seems more like a beyond ironic to legit and inventive take on electronic indie pop. Meta in its musical touchstones to the point of avant-garde.
Who:The Descendents w/The Potato Pirates and In the Whale When: Friday, 06.08, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: The Descendents’ story sounds like it couldn’t be true. Drummer Bill Stevenson met future Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris before the latter’s stint in Black Flag and worked for Morris’ father as a fisherman. Of course Stevenson would spend some years as Black Flag’s drummer while also playing in The Descendents, a band he started with some friends from school when most of them were still in high school. The band’s blend of pop, surf rock and punk made for one of the earliest pop punk bands and its sound and lyrics throughout the 80s articulated teen angst, insecurities and simple aspirations better than a lot of music in the mainstream ever could and thus the band’s enduring popularity and viability. Even as its music is framed in the teen experience there was an evolution in thought and complexity of emotion that happened during the course of the band’s career. These days, seeing The Descendents is a great reminder that punk, even pop punk, can be silly, kinda dumb, but also thoughtful and vibrantly energetic in ways that don’t seem tamed by the compromises mainstream commercial success has exacted on some of the bands The Descendents have influenced.
What:Intendence Film Fest Opening Party with Sympathy F When: Friday, 06.08, 9:30 p.m. Where: Denver Open Media Why: When Sympathy F began in the early 90s Denver was in the prime of its period of urban decay. LoDo as we came to know it in the mid-90s didn’t exist. Squatters lived in buildings downtown and the Fifteenth Street and Twentieth Street viaducts led to areas of glorious industrial yesteryear. Denver felt dark, a little grimy and gritty while not as dangerous as larger cities. The band’s music, a moody, jazz-inflected post-punk, fit that milieu perfectly and it was one of the era’s classic alternative rock bands and one of the very few to have survived through the decades to now. Until a few years ago, the band had only released one record and soon it will release a third. Live, the band creates a lush but electrifying sound and for those that remember those older times in Denver, it’s like getting a taste of that vibe for the time the band drifts into its set.
Saturday | June 9, 2018
Who:71 Grind IV Day 2 (see below for lineup) When: Saturday, 06.09, 1 p.m. Where: Black Sheep and The Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This second day of 71 Grind IV includes performances from powerviolence pioneers Infest, longtime Albuquerque grind legends Noisear and Colorado Springs death grind band 908 which includes 71 Grind organizer Bryan Ostrow. Things get started at 1 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes once again in the late hours at Triple Nickel.
Black Sheep Side Floor Stage
1-1:20 Aerial Ruin
1:40-2 Nite Kidz
3-3:20 Minimum Wage Assasins
3:40-4 Sentient Divide
4:20-4:40 Funeral Chic
5:40-6 Pavel Chekov
9-9:30 Stapled Shut
12:40-1 Modern Color
1:20-1:40 Fortunes Fool
4-4:20 Badr Vogu
4:40-5 Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate
5:20-5:40 Cryptic Void
6-6:30 Dead In The Manger
8:30-9 Despise You
10:30-10:50 The Stalk
11:30-12 Anonymous Inc.
Who:The Corner Girls (single release) w/Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kinky Fingers and Cocordion When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: A year after excellent 2017 Popcorn EP, The Corner Girls release the “Boyfriend” single. Given the band’s gift for giving songs with incisive and irreverent lyrics titles that could come from a vapid pop song, “Boyfriend” probably isn’t just a song about someone’s boyfriend in that tired, classic vein. From the imagery of the band’s artwork to its surf-y punk sound, The Corner Girls aesthetic resonates with that of early K Records bands and 90s indie pop, which in its time was a rejection of the masculine rock world. It isn’t an attack on the latter as much as creating something not defined by it.
Who:Screwtape, Gutter Villain, The Uglys and No Chance When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: The Uglys somehow mixed screamy posthardcore with sludgy riffs for a sound that is like what would have happened had grunge developed a decade and a half later with The Deftones as an influence. That sort of desperation delivered with a manic intensity fits in well on a bill with Denver hardcore stars Screwtape whose songs blur the radical political with the personal in a way we need to see more of right now.
Sunday | June 10, 2018
Who:71 Grind IV Day 3 When: Sunday, 06.10, 12 p.m. Where: The Triple Nickel Tavern Why: This third and last day of 71 Grind takes place at Triple Nickel and sort of a showcase of some of Colorado’s heavy bands. Still Valley is the kind of band that maybe got inspired by the stoner/sludge rock bands with that steady, slow cymbal work going like a hypnotic metronome but its sound is more uplifting, more melodic and ultimately more transporting. In that way Still Valley has a lot in common with Earth, taking the blues roots of the music and exploring its outer possibilities. Tricoma from Denver has similar influences but its sound is more like a fierce thrash/crossover and its heaviness more cutting. The Munsens’ 2016 album Abbey Rose sounds like a doom meditation on the darkened passages and cosmic terror merely hinted at by early Gothic literature, for example Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But whatever band or bands you catch, it’ll be a great slice of heavy music’s current underground scene.
12:30-12:50 Still Valley
1:30-1:50 The Munsens
2-2:20 Innoculated Life
4:30-4:50 Remain & Sustain
5-5:20 Bonus Surprise!
6:30-6:50 Article 15
7-7:20 The Mutations
7:30-7:50 Broken Dead
10:30-11 Dead Set
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip and The Savage Blush When: Sunday, 06.10, 9 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock band that on the surface sounds like a band in that vein with some punk oomph behind it. But its shows are famously tribal affairs during which the band performs in kabuki masks, uses pyrotechnics in its sets and otherwise brings those who show up into a ritual of rock and roll chaos. Experimental jazz thrash prog band TripLip and surf rockers The Savage Blush will ably set the stage for the mayhem to follow with Daikaiju.
Monday | June 11, 2018
Who: Sleep w/Primitive Man and Oryx When: Monday, 06.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Nearly twenty years after the release of its most recent album, 1999’s until then posthumous release, Dopesmoker, the princes (naturally the kings being Black Sabbath) of stoner rock/doom Sleep released a new album in 2018 called The Sciences. Of course its laden with fanboy references to Sabbath (there’s a song called “Giva Butler”), science fiction and arcane knowledge. Oh, and cannabis. “Marijuananaut’s Theme” begins with someone taking a hit off a bong. But it seems as though Sleep has sculpted its sound ever so slightly giving it greater dynamism and fluidity. Don’t worry, the guitars still sound like the tone is in a constant state of splintering and the rhythms are off enough in the right places to be hypnotic and deftly launch the main melodies into spaces that Moebius might have drawn for one of his lost Jodorowsky collaborations—psychedelic, alien and raw. That deathgrind titans Primitive Man and doomdeath stars Oryx are on the bill just make the whole show twice as good.
Who:Violent Femmes When: Monday, 06.10, 6:30 p.m. Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street) Why: Four decades on, Violent Femmes went from jazz-inspired folk-punk-pop weirdos who were perfect for the college rock world of the 80s to a still surprisingly powerful live band whose sound has been influential but not widely imitated. On recordings and on stage the Femmes bring in more than the usual rock instruments and since its early days the band has brought on a group of people called The Horns of Dilemma to play raw, chaotic sounds on a couple of songs in the set. For the Denver dates of the past several years The Horns of Dilemma has included avant-garde improvisational band Animal / object, a group in which Femmes singer Gordon Gano has been known to play violin. Several of the Femmes’ songs have entered the lexicon of popular music through the college and alternative rock path and even if you weren’t around or old enough for the band’s music to impact you the first time it was coming around its music has held up well because it was never grounded in any trendy sound or style but rather an premium on creativity and imagination. Go and be surprised by how of the moment and so not rote the Femmes remain today.
Who:Yes (Howe, Downes and White iteration) When: Monday, 06.10, 2 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Progressive rock has a reputation as an overly intellectual music made by snobs for other technically proficient musicians and fans capable of appreciating the intricacies and compositional sophistication of the music. But most of those bands were seeking to create something deeply imaginative and capable of expressing ideas and emotions beyond the bare bones rock and roll sonic vocabulary. Yes wrote music that aimed to explore and articulate the dreams and aspirations of humankind. Sure, some of it got pretty out there and abstract but largely its songs came from a personal place writing about love, anxiety, fear and a broad range of emotions and the very individual experience of our struggles and triumphs. Yes just didn’t dumb it down. For this show you’ll get to see master guitarist Steve Howe, Alan White’s drumming wizardry and Geoff Downes’ gift for weaving together various keyboard and synth elements to create one of the sounds that has established Yes as a legendary live act for the past few decades.
Tuesday | June 12, 2018
Who:Covenhoven album release w/The Still Tide When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Joel Van Horne has been writing beautifully introspective songs under the moniker Covenhoven for several years and now, with A Kind of Revelation, three records. It was within a week of finishing the mixes for A Kind of Revelation that Van Horne’s brother Ben died from a pulmonary embolism following years of struggling with ulcerative colitis. As with his previous releases (the 2013 self-titled album and 2015’s The Wild and Free), Van Horne immersed himself in a natural environment, taking in the patterns, energies of the place and as much of its essence as possible to drive his creative inspiration. For A Kind of Revelation that place was Olympic National Park and Big Sur. Perhaps a kind of pastoral folk and pop is the form of Van Horne’s songs but the musical language feels like an emotional recreation of the places that influenced their writing. Since it’s at the Bluebird, chances are it’ll be a full band presentation of the music where Covenhoven will share the evening with dream pop/rock band The Still Tide.
Who:Calexico w/Julia Jacklin When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Calexico and Mojave 3 were doing psych-folk-inflected pop Americana before it became a massive feature of “indie” radio in the past ten to fifteen years. Calexico, though, also absorbed a good deal of Mexican folk stylistic flourishes giving its sound a more exotic edge. The group released its latest record, The Thread That Keeps Us, in January 2018. Employing keyboards and synths alongside more traditional instruments has been one of Calexico’s hallmarks from its early days but the new record feels even more expansive and open as though maybe somewhere the band aimed to simplify its sound without sacrificing its full and rich tones.
Wednesday | June 13, 2018
Who:Of Feather and Bone tour kickoff w/Tomb Mold and Casket Huffer When: Wednesday, 06.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver deathgrind band Of Feather and Bone played 71 Grind in Colorado Springs this past weekend and it will kick of its tour in support of its new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion with this show at the Hi-Dive alongside like-minded bands Tomb Mold, from Toronto, Ontario and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Who:Sunmonks, Ancient Elk, Avifauna and GALLERIES When: Wednesday, 06.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Sacramento’s Sunmonks has been honing its blend of R&B, indie pop and world music since 2012. Entertainment Weekly said the band was a “Worthy successor to the Talking Heads.” That seems like hyperbole and lack of life experience and knowledge of recent and older music history. Nevertheless, the band’s willingness to experiment with the form of pop music across various cultures as well as the sound and rhyme schemes to great effect makes it one of the most interesting bands to have bypassed being a psychedelic rock band but effectively making psychedelic pop music. Also on the bill is experimental, psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk, psych hard rock band GALLERIES and the windswept electropop soundscapes of Avifauna.
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.
October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.
Thursday: October 19, 2017
Who:Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.
Friday: October 20, 2017
Who:Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.
Who:Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.
Who:The Juan MacLean When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.
Who:Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.
Who:Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.
Saturday: October 21, 2017
Who:Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.
Who:Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.
Who:Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.
Who:The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.
Who:Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.
Sunday: October 22, 2017
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.
Who:A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.
Monday: October 23, 2017
Who:Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.
Who:Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.
Who:Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.
Tuesday: October 24, 2017
Who:Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.
Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.
Who:Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.
Who:Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.
Who:Tei Shi w/Twelve’len When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.
Who:Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.
Who:My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.
Wednesday: October 25, 2017
Who:Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.
Who:KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.
Who:Guided by Voices When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.
Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.