Best Shows in Denver and Beyond December 2022

Palm performs at Larimer Lounge on December 6, 2022, photo by Eve Alpert
Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 12.01
What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.

Cold Cave in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.02
What: Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.

Cannibal Corpse, photo by Alex Morgan

Friday | 12.02
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents
When: 5
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake
When: 4
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur

Saturday | 12.03
What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS
When: 7
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.

HaemoGoblin, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10 cash)
Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.

The Soft Moon in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.04
What: The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.

Hembree, photo by Jonny Marlow

Sunday | 12.04
What: Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.

The Lemonheads, photo by Barry Brescheisen

Monday | 12.05
What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.

Monday | 12.05
What: W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 3/12/20 – 3/18/20

RobynHitchcock_EmmaSwift1
Robyn Hitchcock performs at Swallow Hill on March 13, photo by Emma Swift

Due to the Coronavirus-related cancellations we will include the shows we already had planned for coverage but indicate that they are cancelled as appropriate and as that information is available.

Thursday | March 12

Thundercat_Feb22_2017_TomMurphy
Thundercat circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Thundercat w/Guapdad 4000
When: Thursday, 3.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stephen Lee Bruner, aka Thundercat, has been the go-to bass playing genius in the hip-hop world and beyond for over a decade including performing on albums by Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus. His own music is equally distinguished for its surreal creativity.

What: Harry Tuft and Brad Corrigan (of Dispatch)
When: Thursday, 3.12, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill Quinlan Cafe
Why: Harry Tuft was instrumental in cultivating and fostering the folk music scene in Denver through first the Denver Folklore Center and then through Swallow Hill. He is also one of the great interpreters of that music and a talented artist in his own right and this intimate show will be a good setting to catch him in action.

What: Dwight Yoakam w/Tennessee Jet
When: Thursday, 3.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

What: Joe Sampson w/Ben Kronberg and Adam Baumeister
When: Thursday, 3.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Friday | March 13

Mayhem_Jan20_2015_TomMurphy
Mayhem, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cancelled The Decibel Magazine Tour: Mayhem and Abbath w/Gatecreeper and Idle Hands
When: Friday, 3.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Mayhem is the legendary/notorious black metal band from Norway whose early history was the subject of the 2019 biopic Lords of Chaos. But the current band is equal parts occult rock theater and crushing black metal of devastating power.

What: Robyn Hitchcock
When: Friday, 3.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill
Why: Robyn Hitchcock first came to public attention as a member of post-punk band Soft Boys in the early 80s but later in the decade through to today he has established himself as one of the most consistently creative, thoughtful and wryly humorous songwriters of the modern era. With an eclectic songwriting style that weaves in elements of jangle rock (which he helped to pioneer) and psychedelia, Hitchcock’s observational story songs articulate vividly snapshots of the core human zeitgeist of the moment through his lens of an Englishman who has remained open to the world.

Why: Concert for Indigent Defense/Death Penalty Repeal Party: Tokyo Rodeo, Cyclo Sonic and The Slacks
When: Friday, 3.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Tokyo Rodeo is a rock band that by not tying its songwriting to a trendy aesthetic or some classic style has been able to cultivate its own voice in writing songs that delve into the personally meaningful in the musical language of a rock and roll universality. Cyclo-Sonic is a Denver punk super group with former members of Rok Tots, The Fluid, Frantix and The Choosey Mothers. But pedigree is not enough. Fortunately Cyclo-Sonic’s unvarnished rock theater and strong songwriting recommends itself.

What: Snakes w/Colfax Speed Queen and No Gossip in Braille
When: Friday, 3.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Snakes is a band that includes George Cessna as well as Brian Buck of High Plains Honky and Kim Baxter of several bands including Gun Street Ghost. Sharing the stage for this inaugural show is psychedelic garage rock powerhouse Colfax Speed Queen and the radically vulnerable post-punk stylings of No Gossip in Braille.

Saturday | March 14

NedGartheExplosion_May16_2014_TomMurphy
Ned Garthe Explosion circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ladies Night, Ned Garthe Explosion, Slugger, Despair Jordan
When: Saturday, 3.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ned Garthe Explosion could have a career as a comedy band but its songwriting is too strong and clever for being a mere novelty act. Its nearly unhinged psychedelic rock is always surprisingly compelling. Slugger somehow managed to emerge over the last few years influenced by 70s rock and psychedelic garage rock without sounding like a rehash of a rehash, instead, vital and visceral.

Sunday | March 15

Ásgeir_AnnaMaggý1
Ásgeir, photo by Anna Maggý

What: Bolonium, Damn Selene and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Sunday, 3.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bolonium is part weirdo pop band and game show including a section involving audience participation. Damn Selene’s mixes underground hip-hop, darkwave, noise and industrial music. Gort Vs. Goom is like if the Minutemen fully embraced prog rock and Blue Oyster Cult.

What: POSTPONED Ásgeir
When: Sunday, 3.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ásgeir is an Icelandic songwriter whose blend of folk with electronic production has garnered him a bit of an audience in his home country and abroad. His falsetto combines a sense of intimacy and transcendence couched in transporting tones and grounding musical textures. Currently the artist is touring in support of his latest album Bury the Moon.

Monday | March 16

WaxLead_KristiFoxFräzier3
Wax Lead, photo by Kristi Fox Fräzier

What: Cancelled Wax Lead, Vio\ator, Voices Under the Mirror and Voight
When: Monday, 3.16, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Minneapolis-based post-punk band Wax Lead brews its catharsis from lushly brooding female vocals and bass-driven minimalism and a willingness to pointedly tackle social and political issues. Also on the bill is the great, Denver-based industrial post-punk band Voight and one of the few good local EBM acts Voices Under the Mirror and its emotionally rich vocals and songwriting.

What: CANCELLED Destroyer w/Nap Eyes
When: Monday, 3.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | March 17

Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013©Jay Blakesberg
Kronos Quartet, photo by Jay Blakesberg

What: CANCELLED or POSTPONED Kronos Quartet
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Newman Center
Why: Kronos Quartet has helped to make classical music cool and relevant since its founding in Seattle in 1973 through creative interpretation of foundational works and the contemporary avant-garde. The Quartet has also been known to indulge in fascinating covers of music in genres beyond its presumed wheelhouse as well as working with noted artists like Laurie Anderson and Pat Metheny.

What: POSTPONED Elohim
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Bear Hands and Irontom
When: Tuesday, 3.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Wednesday | March 18

Jonathan-Wilson-by-Louis-Rodiger-1
Jonathan Wilson, photo by Louis Rodiger

What: CANCELLED Jonathan Wilson w/Other Worlds
When: Wednesday, 3.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jonathan Wilson (Erykah Badu, Father John Misty, Laura Marling etc.) brings a lot of skill, experience and talent to bear on his new album Dixie Blur which he didn’t record at his studio in Los Angeles, where he has produced plenty of high quality material, but in Nashville to be closer to his Southern roots as a musician who grew up in North Carolina. Whether setting matters much in an ultimate sense, the record and lead single “Oh Girl” is informed by a warmth and sensitivity that elevates songs that are already noteworthy for their diverse dynamics and broad palette of emotional coloring.