Best Shows in Denver 12/26/19 – 12/31/19

Thursday | December 26

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Sliver w/Sad Bug, The Slacks, Forla De La Luna, Black & White Motion Picture
When: Thursday, 12.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Lately Sliver frontperson Chris Mercer has been taking vocal lessons from Ed Sheerhan so that they could stop “sounding like I’m totally ripping off Eddie Vedder.” While their songwriting reveals a deep affection for the Everclear catalog the band tries to steer Mercer away from their dreams of having “basically a Silverchair tribute band.” See for yourself if any of this is true tonight.

What: Nektromantic w/Juliet Mission and Plague Garden
When: Thursday, 12.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge
Why: Nekromantic is the bi-monthly post-punk and darkwave night at the Shag Lounge but in the new year those nights will be the second and third Thursday and another night at the Skylark to be announced soon. This evening’s schedule includes a rare live band showcase with Juliet Mission, a post-punk band with roots in the late 80s and early 90s Denver underground scene as all three members were in an early line-up of jazz-inflected shoegaze band Sympathy F. Plague Garden is the post-punk side project of the members of eHpH and Paul Baker of Red Wing Black Bird.

What: Homegrown
When: Thursday, 12.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Grafenberg Sketch Comedy And Improv Theater
Why: This is a live performance from Homegrown, a comedy troupe consisting of contributors of some of the best current comedy television series running with Anne Lane (Rick and Morty), Betsy Sodaro (Disjoined and Bob’s Burgers) and Haley Mancini (Shameless and Powerpuff Girls). Opening the night are Justin Franzen, Nick Ross and Max Schwarz opening

What: Slynger w/Vic N’ The Narwhals and George Cessna
When: Thursday, 12.26,7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | December 27

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Green Druid (older), photo by Tom Murphy

What: Green Druid w/Scepter of Eligos and Tricoma
When: Friday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Sludge metal night at Lost Lake. Green Druid is more on the psych end of doom and Tricoma on the black metal end of the same.

Saturday | December 28

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DeVotchKa, photo by Jen Rosenstein

What: DeVotchKa w/The Copper Children
When: Saturday, 12.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: First of two year end shows for Denver-based, dark cabaret band DeVotchKa who have recently come back from a several years of hiatus in releasing new music with 2018’s excellent This Night Falls Forever. The band has been through several permutations of its development as a creative group from the “gypsy punk” phase early on to its now more orchestral, grand melodrama and broad emotional expression.

What: Velnias w/Gruesome Relics, Fell Harvest
When: Saturday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Born Readies, Elektric Animals and The Ghoulies
When: Saturday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Monday | December 30

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Kid Congo Powers & Pink Monkey Birds circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds and Hang Rounders
When: Monday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is continuing its tradition of New Year’s Eve shows across two nights starting on this date with the same bill both nights. The Denver-based band is part Vaudeville act and dramatic, countrified post-punk with its stylized and compelling live show. Also on the bill is Kid Congo Powers’ classic Chicano rock band. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but with the Pink Monkey Birds he’s able to shape that into his own musical vision steeped in the aforementioned and glam rock. Hang Rounders is an unabashedly classic country band with a modern flavor.

What: Fuzzy J w/Chris Shrift and Kali Krone
When: Monday, 12.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Tuesday | December 31

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Chimney Choir, photo courtesy the artists

What: Chimney Choir (light shadow) album release party
When: Tuesday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Avant-garde pop group Chimney Choir is releasing its latest album (light shadow) tonight and as per usual, you’re in for the kind of show that pretty much no one else is doing and which will involve multi-media, physical props, costumes and more than likely some inspired audience participation aspect just for this show, probably never to be repeated again.

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds and Hang Rounders
When: Tuesday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Devotchka w/Banshee Tree and Kiltro
When: Saturday, 12.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Best Shows in Denver 4/4/19 – 4/10/19

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Acid Mothers Temple perform at Larimer Lounge on April 8. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | April 4

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.

Who: A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.

Friday | April 5

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Modern Leisure circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faim, Sore Eyes (Springs), Bi-Proxy (first show, members of Herse, Caffeine and Eternal) and Implied Risk (first show)
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Faim is one of the great, noisy hardcore bands from Denver. Eruptive and pointed in its energy. If you go, you’ll also get to see the first show from a couple of other like-minded bands who are keeping local hardcore alive and interesting.

Who: Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.

Saturday | April 6

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Doo Crowder circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard
When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.

Who: FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release)
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.

Who: Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.

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Kero Kero Bonito, photo by Tracey Ng

Who: Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.

Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.

Who: Bad Sounds and Broods
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.

Who: An Evening With Spiritualized
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.

Sunday | April 7

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SUSTO, photo courtesy the artist

Who: SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone
When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.

Monday | April 8

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Mdou Moctar, photo by Nikkl Cells

Who: Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.

Who: Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.

Tuesday | April 9

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.

Who: Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.

Wednesday | April 10

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Morlox, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.

Who: DeVotchKa
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m.
Where: Twist & Shout
Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.

Who: Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.

Best Shows in Denver 9/20/18 – 9/26/18

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Frigs perform 9/25/18 with Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night at Hi-Dive

Thursday | September 20, 2018

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The Voidz, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Propagandhi w/Iron Chic and Cheap Perfume
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Propagandhi made leftist politics and veganism into some great pop punk songs even as its sound evolved in heavier directions later in its career. From 1993’s humorous yet pointedly political How To Clean Everything to 2001’s opus of politically pointed yet irreverent and fun Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, Propagandhi were one of the few relatively high profile modern punk bands that didn’t get stuck in pure entertainment and only songs about heartache and everyday life mode. Thankfully the band still hasn’t cynically cashed in with essentially content-free records. Long Island’s Iron Chic seems cut from a similar cloth writing genuinely clever songs pairing meaningful and insightful lyrics with infectiously catchy melodic punk. Colorado Springs’ own Cheap Perfume opens the show with plenty of searing social commentary for an entire evening of music packed into its set.

Who: The Voidz w/Promiseland and The Velveteers
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Voidz released its sophomore record Virtue in March and for those uninitiated its video for “QYURRYUS” suggested some sort of futuristic weirdo psychedelic band but one that took older trash technology and made something new and interesting with it. That Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas was involved in that song and video, a seeming mutant send-up of 80s VHS mashup and modern post-punk and trap, shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet it did. The rest of the album isn’t all quite as engagingly strange but nevertheless a sprawl of concentrated musical imagination, welcome in a time when such things aren’t in as abundant as one would hope. The previous album, 2014’s Tyranny, had some promising moments but Virtue is where Casablancas and company really want to be in creating music not just a departure from other projects but in making something that is of the moment even when it mines the past for compositional elements recontextualized.

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Murder By Death, photo by Tall James Photography

Who: Murder By Death and William Elliott Whitmore
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Murder By Death’s latest album The Other Shore sounds like a band that has taken a decisive step to musically reinventing itself while preserving the core of what has made it one of the most interesting bands of the past two decades. Before chamber pop and indie Americana was really much of a thing, Murder By Death had been making that music with a high level of artistry with lyrics that skirted a fine line between the conceptual, the personal, narrative elements and the poetic without coming off as pretentious. The Other Shore, as the album title suggests, showcases a band that has been on a journey since it’s inception to explore its musical interests as an Americana band in a place and a time when post-hardcore and emo was the prevailing form of music around them, and one that wrote music about an imaginary American West with a greater accuracy and resonance than many bands actually from that part of the country. For this tour Murder By Death is joined by its friend and early compatriot in making music out of step with then trends in music. His warm, textured songwriting and singing has the ability to draw you in with the clarity and vivid imagery of his own storytelling. His new record Kilonova on Bloodshot Records is a collection of songs that truly find the great stories in everyday life better than almost anything out this year as yet.

Friday | September 21, 2018

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Meat Beat Manifesto, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Meat Beat Manifesto w/C-Tec, Mondo Obscura and DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Nine Inch Nails and huge swath of 90s and 2000s electronic music acts cite Meat Beat Manifesto as a primary influence. Jack Dangers’ production fingerprints have been all over the musical landscape from the 90s onward. Part of the reason for this is Dangers’ wide-ranging curiosity about various musical styles and technology and techniques involved in making those sounds. He didn’t just dabble in all sorts of techno, EDM, IDM, dub and more, he produced innovative work in all of those sonic realms. MBM’s 1990 album 99% was a landmark in electronic music production and composition perhaps only surpassed immediately afterward by 1992’s Satyricon. But in recent years MBM has released some of its most interesting music to date including the two 2018 albums in an especially fruitfully prolific era of the project with Impossible Star out this past January and a new full-length due out in November. Both records reveal a band that has consistently moved into new realms of sound while maintaining its unique voice in music.

Also on the bill is C-Tec, a dark EBM-esque project of some of that music scene’s luminaries including Jean-Luc DeMeyer of Front 242, Marc Heal of Cubanate, Ged Dention of Crisis NTI and Julian Beeston of Nitzer Ebb. Denver ambient/industrial duo Mondo Obscura opens the show with probably a harder edged of their more hypnotic chill out vibe. If their 2018 album Focus On Black is any indication that shouldn’t be a problem.

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Who: Tribulation and Pallbearer
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Arvika, Sweden’s Tribulation probably could have become stuck mining the melodic/Gothenburg death metal territory or hybriding that with neo-thrash or Goth-ed out black metal. But its sound is much more interesting and not trying to be all things to all fans of heavy music. Rather, it’s eclectic sound is one that has roots but uses those sonic elements to write layered music with imaginative dynamics that allow for writing songs about occult themes in 2018 without seeming corny. The group’s 2018 album Down Below is sort of to death metal what T.S.O.L.’s 1982 to album Beneath the Shadows was to hardcore.

Who: 7C 6-Year Night #1: Only Echos (album release), Only Souls Die Young and more
When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This Denver DIY space is one of the few places you can go and see something new and good you’ve never heard of on a bill of very different other music every single time. It’s also the main place where younger musicians are going to play for their peers as they develop as artists. What that means is that you can see bands grow from the ground up, which is the most exciting time to see them. Congratulations no Seventh Circle Music Collective in keeping things going for 6 years thus far.

Who: El Ten Eleven w/Tennis System and Picture the Waves
When: Friday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: El Ten Eleven is the Los Angeles based post-rock band whose music you’ve heard in television and film. Its texture and rhythm driven compositions give El Ten Eleven a bit more presence than some of its peers in the realm of instrumental rock. Also on the bill this night is another L.A.-based ethereal rock project with Tennis System. That trio takes the kind of bright, breezy melodies that Depreciation Guild had discovered in melding pure 8-bit electronic composition with dream pop. Tennis System, though, weds the sound with a sort of melancholic, disillusioned yet hopeful tone suggestive of being in a place where all aspirations can supposedly be met but the reality is much less glamorous.

Saturday | September 22, 2018

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Kat Ellinger circa 2005 in Sleepers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Kat Ellinger tribute/benefit featuring: I’m A Boy, Toddy Walters, The Red Tack, Stereoshifter, New Ben Franklins, Doug and Liz from Sympathy F and Shindei Shashin
When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Kat Ellinger was a respected songwriter and singer/musician in Denver from the early 90s until her untimely passing in June 2018. Her bands Worm Trouble and Sleepers should have propelled her into at least the tier of touring bands that plays mid-sized clubs as her knack for writing meaningful, well-crafted rock and pop songs with a strong individual vision was on par with anyone anyone could name from that same time period. Her songs were eclectic, emotionally powerful, honest and accessible. Ellinger herself was an engaging and strong live performer and this show, a benefit for her family, features Denver underground luminaries such as Ted Thacker formerly of Baldo Rex (a band often cited by DeVotchKa as an influence) as The Red Tack, New Ben Franklins playing a rock rather than country set and Doug Seaman and Liz Rose of Sympathy F performing a stripped down set.

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Stonefield, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Frankie And the Witch Fingers w/Stonefield, King Eddie and DJ Ross Taylor
When: Saturday, 09.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kind of a psychedelic party rock show with Frankie And the Witch Fingers from Los Angeles and their Colorado kin with King Eddie. Stonefield, though, is an all female heavy psych band from Australia. The group released its most recent full length Far From Earth in 2018 with a sound somewhere betwixt early solo Dio and Acid Witch and 70s hard rock bands like Uriah Heep.

Who: 7 C 6-Year Night #2: David Liebe Hart, Chip the Black Boy, Whatever Your Heart Desires, Unit-Y, Shwarma, Actobog and more
When: Saturday, 09.22, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Night two of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s 6-year anniversary show with an appearance by eccentric outsider pop artist David Liebe Hart who is responsible for some of the most surreal segments of the already quite strange Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Some have speculated that it’s all an act but what you see is what you get and there is an unmistakable appeal to Hart’s utter sincerity and conviction and faith in his music and art to reach people.

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Iron and Wine, photo by Kim Black

Who: Iron & Wine w/Erin Rae
When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Sam Beam’s songs, no matter the format and line-up performing them, always come off like campfire sessions in which everyone shares stories and ideas and autobiographical musings that taking into flights of personal philosophy. That warmth and intimacy sets Bream’s work apart from many of his peers and there is a timelessness to his music akin to that of Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin. His new offering, 2018’s Weed Garden EP, follows on the heels of 2017’s Beast Epic and what many consider to be a return to the stripped down, simple style that made 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days a classic.

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DeVotchKa, photo by Jen Rosenstein

What: On Tap With KBCO featuring DeVotchKa, Cake and Calexico
When: Saturday, 09.22, 12:30
Where: Breckenridge Brewery
Why: This is a show benefitting Take Note Colorado, an organization dedicated to getting musical instruments and lessons to Colorado students K-12. Cake is the alternative rock band that had wry 90s hits like “The Distance” and “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” Calexico is the excellent Americana/dream pop band with a bit of Southwest flavor. DeVotchKa, the hometown heroes, released its latest album This Night Falls Forever in August. That it’s the group’s first release of an entire album of new material since 2011’s 100 Lovers suggests a period of deep self-doubt, assessing oneself as an artist and as a person and a reinvention without discarding everything. The new record has all the hallmarks of DeVotchKa’s best material—depth of sound space, intricate sonic details that never seem cluttered and excessive and a haunted quality that hints at accepting one’s regrets if not gladly, of loss and calm and grace in the face of an uncertain future. Frankly, it’s music for the current era and comfort in a time of trouble and chaos as DeVotchKa has a gift for tapping into one’s sense of nostalgia and triggering a gentle catharsis.

Monday | September 24, 2018

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Who: The Charlatans UK w/Reyna
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Charlatans UK were one of the bands whose mix of soul, acid house and psychedelic rock was early associated with the Madchester aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s. And, thus, what became known as Britpop. The Charlatans were a step removed from Madchester coming from the relatively nearby Western Midlands but were clearly musically kindred spirits. The group’s 1990 debut full-length Some Friendly was recorded when the band had been together for around a year and can be a bit uneven but it yielded an iconic hit with “The Only One I Know.” Throughout the 90s The Charlatans evolved in interesting ways as its members stayed engaged with new sounds and ideas and in growing as artists themselves rather than rest on past laurels. The result has been a string of albums with a familiar element to the songwriting because of Tim Burgess’ strong yet emotionally chameleonic voice, Martin Blunt’s subtle yet fluid bass style perfectly accenting the song dynamics, the late Rob Collins’ (and now Tony Rogers’) ebullient but tasteful keyboard work and Mark Collins’ gift for playing to the song and taking on a broad variety of roles as a guitarist—lead, rhythm, texture, accents.

The Charlatans released a 2017 album called Different Days which is both a reminder that maybe the more recent world of rock and pop has caught up to what The Charlatans have done all along quite well in threading psychedelic rock, classic songwriting about perennial themes and listening to the new music for ideas to not get stuck in one’s own rut and inspiration for the future. In 2018 the Totally Eclipsing EP, comprised of material recorded during the time of Different Days, was released on limited edition 12” green vinyl as well as for download and as a second CD with a deluxe edition of the full-length.

Who: Dr. Montgomery Maxwell, Joohs Uhp, $addy and Shamwow
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A good slice of some of Denver’s weirdo/experimental/industrial hip-hop. Dr. Montgomery Maxwell is more on the industrial side of that spectrum though maybe for this show he might not break as much stuff on stage as usual. But you never know. Joohs Uhp sounds like a guy who is way into nü metal and hip-hop and unabashedly all about what some might think is the trashier more ephemeral end of that but has found a way to turn that affection for other people’s supposed trash and turned it into something interesting. Shamwow sounds like, for lack of a better term “slacker trap.” Meaning, to some, it’ll sound like lazily made weird, lo-fit who-knows-what but really it’s well produced, intentional stuff that some fans of “real” hip-hop won’t recognize its quality. But, supposedly, Trev Rich is a fan so there’s that. $addy’s sound is as the name suggest—sort of a melancholic vibe but using beats that sound like they’re right out of a surreal game about being a gamer hacker destroying the horrific international economic system and unlocking achievements by dropping sick 8-bit beats rife with noise and undoubted sonic reference samples from realms of the gaming world most of us have never heard about. Or something like that.

Who: Beck w/Jenny Lewis
When: Monday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Beck made being an utterly eccentric songwriter a commercially viable thing in the 1990s. Maybe he was tapping into the zeitgeist in a way that the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s made possible by speaking to the inner weirdo of a broad audience. There is no reason a song like “Loser,” “Where It’s At,” “Devil’s Haircut” and “The New Pollution” should have been hits to anyone but hipster oddballs except that Beck also employed elements of soul, hip-hop, R&B and interesting but odd cultural references that was a far cooler predecessor to the awkward comedy kick that got more popular in the 2000s. But Beck evolved and his genre splicing became more refined and fascinating with every album from Midnight Vultures onward reflecting perhaps a  particularly focused set of ideas and sounds. Beck simply wouldn’t allow himself to be limited by the expectations of others and trusted his imagination and instincts to be his guide.

Jenny Lewis was an actress in various television shows and films before people knew of her as an actress. But her band with Blake Sennett, another child actor, Rilo Kiley introduced the world to one of the most genuinely clever, incisive and insightful commenters on personal psychology and American culture in Lewis as a lyricist. It didn’t hurt that her emotionally rich and powerful voice put conviction behind those words. Whether in Rilo Kiley, her solo albums, Jenny & Johnny or her recent work in Nice As Fuck, Lewis has consistently been an artist with something to say, singing with a poignant honesty but one informed by a sense reality and kindness.

Who: Boulder Guitar Society: Janet Feder
When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: First United Methodist Church of Boulder
Why: Janet Feder is an educator and master guitarist whose experimental compositions both extend the range and possibilities of the instrument but whose songs have an accessibility and emotional resonance that one doesn’t often associate with a musician that is both an academic and long-standing figure in the musical avant-garde. But just like the human that is Janet Feder, the music is immediately engaging and inviting into an unpretentious creativity that anyone can access.

Tuesday | September 25, 2018

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Jenny Lewis, photo from Jenny Lewis Tumblr

Who: Beck w/Jenny Lewis
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Beck and Jenny Lewis see above for Monday, 09.24.

Who: FRIGS w/Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: FRIGS at first listen might remind you of 90s angular post-punk bands like Fugazi, 2000s’ Canadian art guitar groups like Women or the English, experimental rock band Electrelane. That use of layered simple yet intricate and entrancing guitar and rhythm. All intertwined with Bria Salmena’s soulful and expressive vocals. The band’s 2018 debut full-length Basic Behavior is a raw, menacing, atmospheric wail of wiry energy unleashing and transforming the angst and anxiety of this era. The band’s live shows bring some mystery and emotionally-charged physicality to the stage in a way not many bands these days do.

Who: Gringo Star w/Turvy Organ and Shuttles
When: Tuesday, 09.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Before it became too fashionable, Atlanta’s Gringo Star was perfecting its signature psych/soul garage rock sound. What seems lost in some of the assessments of the band, that is hinted at through its numerous music videos, is how the group’s music tells stories from the perspective of urban, Southern youth and its use of musical forms from other parts of the country (surf rock, California psych, Memphis soul/garage rock etc.) as the palette of its imaginative expression. The band’s 2018 album Back to the City finds it in a more wistful mood with a sense of nostalgia that is far more interesting, genuine, personal and poignant than has often been the case in a lot of music of late.

Wednesday | September 26, 2018

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Ms. Lauryn Hill, photo from Ms. Lauryn Hill Facebook

Who: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th anniversary w/Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces
When: Wednesday, 09.26, 5:55 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: In 1998 Lauryn Hill announced herself as a solo artist of note with the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill after having parted ways with her former band, the popular and influential R&B hip-hop group The Fugees. On the strength of promotional singles and name recognition alone, the record was probably destined to top the Billboard charts. But the record struck a chord with a strong yet nuanced evocation of the experience of women’s experiences as well as Hill’s sheer stylistic range. And Hill didn’t write the album with the commercial audience in mind. Yes, it’s well-produced and written, of course, but it’s also a raw and honest record that is accessible to a broad audience because of those qualities. The record has rightfully come to be seen as a classic of neo soul but it’s also one of the greatest albums of the 90s for the vitality of its creative vision. As a bonus you get to see Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces. Kweli is one of America’s most important social critics and one of its greatest hip-hop artists. Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces could have merely been a legendary of alternative hip-hop as a member of Digable Planets. But in Shabazz Palaces with Tendai Maraire he is exploring experimental realms of sound, noise and rhythm that is pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop can sound like, look like and be.