Michelle Caponigro grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin where she honed her singing skills in school choir and moved to Denver in the late 90s after getting involved in the jam band scene. As a member of Purple Buddha for seven years she performed shows and on stages in that then and now very active musical world. But as is often inevitable personal differences arise and Caponigro parted ways with the band and learned to play guitar and write her own songs and found a bit of a niche on the indie and Americana end of the singer-songwriter milieu in Denver performing as Chella Negro. There are plenty of singer-songwriters in every city playing guitar solo or with a band in every city that has a music scene but Chella’s performances had an exuberance that was compelling on their own. But whatever the subject matter of her compositions there was a depth of thought and complexity of sentiment that brought a philosophical quality to her love songs and her songs commenting on culture and society. When Caponigro put together a full band and dubbed it Chella and the Charm around a decade ago the intelligent and heartfelt lyrics continued as the sound palette broadened. The most recent offering from the band is 2019’s Good Gal but look for a new EP by 2023.
Listen to our interview with Michelle Caponigro of Chella & The Charm on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 9:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on Chella & The Charm visit the links beneath the interview.
Emerald Siam has been running for nearly a decade in the Denvoid. The band was been lead by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Ottaway from the beginning but reflects a lifetime of influences and inspirations drawn from its collective membership. So the sound has a deep mood and melodies that are woven in with emotional expressions cast in poetic expressions in the lyrics and songwriting. To call it post-punk gives a potential listener a touchstone for what they’re in for with swarming and swimming atmospheres, fluid musical structures that burst in cathartic release orchestrated to dramatic effect minus pretense. Since the late 80s Ottaway has been part of some of Denver’s most vital rock bands beginning with Twice Wilted who were steeped in the creative energies of Killing Joke, Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain as well as 60s psychedelic garage rock. Its colossal sounds and DIY ethos garnered a large following and the band had a brush with being signed to a major label before establishing its own Gift Records imprint with which it released the 1993 classic Ice Hex Fix. And the way of many of Denver’s best bands at the time, Twice Wilted split in 1996 with Ottaway headed to the Bay Area only to discover he didn’t quite belong there and he returned to the Denver area and founded Tarmints, a band stylistically drastically different from Twice Wilted but not in terms of intention to put together something of quality and originality. If you were fortunate enough to see Tarmints during its eleven years of existence you saw a band that defied easy classification and which demanded being taken on its own terms. Yes, blues, sure mutant punk Birthday Party and Gun Club sounds and attitude with some of the grizzled Laughing Hyenas-esque intensity and immediately enthralling songwriting with shows that lasted exactly as long as they needed to be meaning no drawn-out, self-indulgent sets. Tarmints hit the stage hard with incredibly energy and focus and left before you could ever be weary of being sonically grabbed by the throat and brought along for an irresistible emotional ride that felt like a mutual purge of the dark corners of the psyche where the anxiety and nightmare fuel of your mind dwell. During most of this musical journey Ottaway ran a number of DIY spaces going back to the 1980s in Upper Larimer, RINO, what is now the Santa Fe Arts District, downtown and Lower Colfax and encouraging people in the local scene to make something that could be mutually inspiring. In this interview we do not talk about Emerald Siam much at all but rather the early days from his youth in the 1970s up through about the early 90s when Twice Wilted was in high gear. Perhaps in future conversations to be shared in this podcast we will get into other stories of which Ottaway has hundreds and thousands.
Listen to our interview with Kurt Ottaway of Emerald Siam on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 6:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on Emerald Siam visit the links beneath the interview.
Gila Teen is Hunter Wood and Aidan Bettis. They went to the same middle school in Lakewood but really met in high school when they started being in the same friend circles and formed their early bands at that time. After a bit of a hiatus and while in college the two musicians reconnected and started projects that some may have seen in and around Denver in the DIY scene and elsewhere like the folk punk groups Bear Face and Burgundy Church Wagon. But they started Bert Olsen in around 2017 though the roots of the songwriting for the band go back to 2011. In 2018 one could see Bert Olsen at a variety of venues and even early on it was obvious it was something different seemingly threading together disparate stylistic elements and creating something that has felt unique. One hears in its music the influence of emo, shoegaze, post-punk and electronic music. They played their final show as Bert Olsen in June 2019 opening for Church Fire, Rabbit Fighter and Natural Velvet at Lost Lake. Changing the name to Gila Teen and utilizing a drum machine, Wood and Bettis have leaned into any idiosyncratic style choices for the stage that occurs to them as well as songwriting instincts that have kept its sound fresh and unpredictable not fitting neatly into a specific genre. Its most recent release is the 2021 album Pain Vacation.
Listen to our interview with Gila Teen on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 6:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on Gila Teen visit the links beneath the interview.
Shadows Tranquil began shortly after guitarist/vocalist Doran Robischon parted ways with indie rock/post-punk band Gauntlet Hair in 2012. Evolving musical ideas for the band over a few years and going through various incarnations of the band by 2018 and the group’s earliest shows Shadows Tranquil emerged as the kind of band that sure had its roots in atmospheric guitar work akin to shoegaze and post-punk but with an edge and deep and nuanced emotional expression that also brought together its members background and interest in extreme metal and progressive rock. What you see is a band that isn’t cookie cutter in style with layers of musical ideas that seem orchestral in conception but with an air of the spontaneous in execution. The elegance in composition and the tiniest of sonic details is impressive. The band’s forthcoming album Downward Flowers engineered by Erik Ryan at Decibel Garden is both melancholic and defiant, introspective and exuberant, reconciling a full range of human emotional instincts.
Listen to our interview with Shadows Tranquil on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 4 pm on the Howl Stage. For more information on the festival and on Shadows Tranquil visit one of the links beneath the interview.
A Strange Happening formed after Jake Adamson and Elisha Cox moved to Denver from Casper, Wyoming around a decade ago. In their new home city the couple became more immersed in the local music scene they had been able to witness in their trips down south to visit and catching some shows. Their musical project came together when drummer Matt McNiff moved to Denver from New York in 2014 and was introduced to Adamson through their then boss. They bonded over a mutual appreciation for Mr. Show. At the time Adamson was already recording bands and the musicians began their initial forays into making music before officially choosing a band name (one considered was Dirt Wizard, but A Strange Happening is not in fact a psychedelic doom band) and being prepared to play live shows in 2018. The group didn’t have a lot of time to get things off the ground before the pandemic took hold and hasn’t played many shows since those started being a thing again so if you haven’t had a chance to see them in Denver that’s a part of the reason why. But A Strange Happening did release its self-titled debut album at the end of 2021. It’s an indie rock concept album of a sort meant to reflect the aesthetics of 1940s and 1950s radio dramas with interludes and introductions to give context to the more modern sounding music and it includes a cover of “Snake Goddess (cover)” by Denver’s Zealot. The blend of noir and horror/thriller themes on the album lends itself well to an album that is creatively different from a lot of indie rock these days.
Listen to our interview with A Strange Happening on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 1:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on A Strange Happening visit one of the links beneath the interview.
Polly Urethane is the performance moniker of Amber Benton. She started performing under that name in 2021 and garnered some attention in certain Denver underground music circles for her performance art style shows in which she breaks the stage and audience barrier pretty much every show at this point. Her music combines classical music in her piano work and operatic vocals, electronic composition, musique concrète and industrial soundscaping. In 2021 Polly Urethane released her collaborative album Altruism with Rusty Steve who some may know from his work in futuristic hip-hop glam project N3PTUNE. It showcased a shared knack for pop songcraft that fused darkwave, hyperpop, industrial and R&B. Though Polly Urethane’s presentation can be confrontational the intention is to shake up expectations and arbitrary norms of the performer and audience relationship and is informed by a spirit of humor and the absurd in the intensity and mysterious aesthetic of the performance.
Listen to our interview with Polly Urethane on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Friday, 8/19/22 at 9:45 pm. For more information on the festival and on Polly Urethane visit one of the links beneath the interview.
Pleasure Prince is a soulful synth pop duo from Denver comprised of Lilly Scott and Will Duncan. The latter had been part of the Americana scene from Denver performing in Oblio Duo and other projects. Scott as a teen had spent time going to shows at DIY spaces and house shows seeing noise, other experimental music and the wide array of bands that performed at such places. In 2010 she auditioned for and appeared in the ninth season of American Idol and lived in Los Angeles for eight months before returning to Denver and forming Varlet, a jazz and Americana inflected indie rock band in which Duncan played drums. But that group parted ways around a decade ago and Scott and Duncan moved to New York City where they played clubs and other show opportunities throughout the city before deciding they wanted to be back in Colorado, returning at the end of 2019 just in time to discover how much the city had changed both culturally and in other ways that impacted being a musician in the Mile High City. Then the pandemic hit and Pleasure Prince had some time to incubate its creative impulses. While in NYC the band had acquired a number of synthesizers that shaped its current songwriting and while the duo’s gorgeously lush and evocative current music is a bit of a departure from Varlet and previous musical endeavors it reflects the core of strong songwriting Scott and Duncan have cultivated across several years as evidenced by a recent performance in which the songs had to be translated to a more or less non-electronic form. In 2022 Pleasure Prince released its new album Numbers.
Listen to our interview with Pleasure Prince on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 8:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on Pleasure Prince visit one of the links beneath the interview.
Moon Pussy is a noise rock band from Denver. The trio met in and around the DIY/house show scene in Denton, Texas around a decade ago. Drummer Corey Hager had been in various bands including the Unwound-esque Last Men (a play on the title of the classic graphic novel series Y: The Last Man). Vocalist/bassist Cristina Cuellar lived in a house that threw shows but wasn’t an active musician until picking up bass to play with Moon Pussy. Ethan Hahn is from Denver and had played in various noise rock/art rock bands over several years before the personal and creative chemistry came together with Hager and Cuellar. After moving to Denver around a decade ago, the band didn’t fully get off the ground until a few years back when Moon Pussy made a strong impression among connoisseurs of music that might be challenging to people who would probably hate Big Black and The Jesus Lizard too. Cuellar’s eruptive vocals and the more intuitive rhythms and sonic textures that flow freely between band members and into the music sounds and feels like a catharsis of the anxiety, frustration and outrages that have become an ambient aspect of life in the modern world.
Listen to our interview with Moon Pussy on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 2 pm on the Howl Stage. For more information on the festival and on Moon Pussy, visit one of the links beneath the link for the interview.
Monday | 08.01 What:Horse Jumper of Love w/Cryogeyser, Cherished and Fainting Dreams When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love is that rare band that can somehow be simultaneously a post-punk band and a psychedelic Americana band. Its new album Natural Part has a haunted grittiness that is at times reminiscent of Big Star at its gloomiest and Built to Spill in an introspective mood. Cryogeyser might be considered a bit of a slowcore band even though plenty of its songs aren’t so slow and employ jangly guitar in the way Lush did in its more pop songwriting. Cherished used to be called Lowfaith and thus an intense deathrock band with knack for moody atmospherics. Fainting Dreams is a Denver-based slowcore duo whose introspective/melancholic songs shimmer and incandesce and bloom with lingering moods.
Tuesday | 08.02 What:The Psychedelic Furs w/X When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Psychedelic Furs and X probably need no introduction as bands who in the first case popularized post-punk for a mainstream audience and in the second made arty, literary punk that didn’t shy away from its own roots in country and rockabilly while embracing the ferocious energy of the scene in which it found itself. Both began in 1977. The Furs in London, X in Los Angeles. The former had songs on movie soundtracks most notably the title track, as it were, of the 1986 John Hughes film. The latter were stars of the first underground punk movie of long lasting influence and notoriety, 1981’s The Decline of Western Civilization. Both wrote some of the most memorable songs of their time and genre. Both had many years off between their heyday and their most recent albums but with the most recent albums being among their best. And both still put on a compelling and powerful live show that will sound good in a place like Mission Ballroom.
Friday | 08.05 What:Florist w/Marc Merza When: 5 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Florist returns with a full band album with 2022’s self-titled album. Though the band is often dubbed with the indie folk label, fair enough, its gently atmospheric music sounds like it was written while contemplating deep feelings and thoughts while having the time to let the mind stretch out in a calm place and replicating that mood in the songwriting. The textural elements of the instrumentation, even when Emily Sprague has composed with her analog synths, are part of the appeal of the band’s music as it establishes a tactile as well as sonic intimacy that sets the band well apart from many other artists whose work is described as indie folk and on the new album there are parts that sound like musique concrète and field recordings used both in the mix and recreated with instruments. It makes for a different kind of listen than the usual pop arrangements that inform the music of most bands. Fans of Mega Bog will appreciate the unconventional style yet immediate accessibility of what Florist has to offer.
Friday | 08.05 What: The Derelicts w/Cyclo Sonic and Cease Fire When: 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Derelicts are a punk/garage rock band from Seattle that formed in 1986 around the same time as Mudhoney who had similar musical roots and sensibilities. Maybe they both listened to a lot of The Saints and Radio Birdman. Known for bombastic performances and frontman Duane Bodenheimer’s irreverent stage banter, The Derelicts have remained a bit of an underground legend known among connoisseurs of late 80s and early 90s punk. Chances are The Derelicts encountered The Fluid during that late 80s period when the Denver-based band toured to the Pacific Northwest and played shows with like-minded groups among bands that would go on to form the core of grunge because The Fluid too was a band influenced heavily by the Stooges, garage rock and the like and arguably the most influential punk/post-punk band out of Denver in the 80s and 90s whether other bands know it or not. Matt Bischoff was the bass player for The Fluid but he’d also been in an earlier punk great Frantix from Aurora, Colorado whose single “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic” definitely strikes an immediate chord. These days Bischoff plays guitar in Cyclo Sonic. Sure musically it’s not a big leap from his other bands but fortunately for us Bischoff and his bandmates including Arnie and AJ Beckman formerly of garage punk band The Choosey Mothers and Jif Jipers of punk legends Rok Tots have written a some vital slabs of incredibly catchy punk which can be heard on their 2020 album Candied Rats and the earlier EPs. Cease Fire is a street punk band from Denver that includes former members of The Purple Fluid including Richard Kulwicki, one of the sons of the late great Fluid guitarist the senior Richard “Ricky” Kulwicki.
Sunday | 08.07 What:The Wild Hearts Tour: Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen w/Quinn Christopherson When: 5 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Wild Hearts Tour is a showcase of three of the greatest songwriters to have emerged in the past fifteen years. Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen are all artists who earned their reputations with strong songwriting and an inventive take on their specific musicianship styles establishing their own artistic voice early on in their respective careers. And each has gone on to push the boundaries of expectation for what they would do creatively with a body of work that is inventive and emotionally rich. As performers all three women have an openness and freshness of presentation that lends the show an air of the spontaneous that is consistently strikingly compelling. Van Etten’s 2022 album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a bit of a departure from some of her earlier work with a sound that’s so spare it might throw off older fans but it also has an intimacy that has always been a part of her appeal as a songwriter but this one feels so very up close and direct. Julien Baker’s early releases proved she is a gifted songwriter able to take a very stripped down presentation of the music and letting her powerful and emotive voice speak for itself with wit and perceptive observations of self and of being a human navigating a life often fraught with challenges and discouragement. Her 2021 album Little Oblivions greatly expanded her sonic palette as a songwriter with extensive use of electronics and deep atmospheric elements and yet none of it hid and rather enhanced the expression of a startling and thrillingly raw lyrics that just hit so powerfully with an urgent and honest exploration of conflicted feelings and working through emotional trauma in a way that felt maybe a little too real for some listeners. Angel Olsen has been refining and reinventing her songwriting style and sound since her 2011 debut EP Strange Cacti and with her first full-band release 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness her career seemed to take off. Her creatively expressive vocals lent itself well to stories drawn from her own life and observational songs about the impact of culture and one’s own history on the psyche. Her evocative and pastoral guitar work and voice have worked powerfully in tandem across her career as she freely incorporated aesthetics and musical ideas into her work but always somehow being able to speak to underlying emotions that often defy cogent expression but which Olsen has been able to bring forth across six albums including the classic country flavored 2022 album Big Time which does draw upon an older aesthetic but is fully modern in execution which is no mean feat. Won’t be a subpar moment of music on stage for this show.
Sunday | 08.07 What:Telekinetic Yeti w/White Hills and Hashtronaut When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: When one thinks of gloriously epic psychedelic metal Dubuque, Iowa is probably not where you’d expect a band like Telekinetic Yeti to come from though the state has long been home to many musical surprises over the years. The duo’s new album Primordial released July 8 on Tee Pee Records, home to some of the cooler heavy psychedelic and doom bands of recent years. “Stoner rock” started getting super stale around 18 years ago but fortunately some of those musicians evolved in to doom metal and then the weirder musicians recognized that Black Sabbath and Sleep both didn’t bother with splitting up heaviness and psychedelia and in fact saw how they could complement each other well in creating mind-altering music. Telekinetic Yeti is of that vintage. White Hills has long been one of the best heavy psychedelic bands going since forming in 2003. Also a duo, White Hills has fortunately been impossible to pigeonhole because yes there are elements of metal, krautrock, space rock, post-punk, ambient, noise and the avant-garde in the group’s music the entirety of its career and each record has been an attempt to do something different in terms of sonics, songwriting, structure, emotional colorings and the potential for performance that goes beyond simple songwriting. The forthcoming The Revenge Of Heads On Fire out September 16 on Cargo Records UK is definitely a stretch into the kind of space rock territory fans of Hawkwind will appreciate. Denver’s Hashtronaut are also fellow travelers of the tripped out, slow burn, heavy psychedelia.
Sunday | 08.07 What:Death Bells w/Pendant and Candy Apple When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death Bells formed in Sydney, Australia in 2015 but moved to Los Angeles in 2018 in search of greater horizons of developing and sharing its unique brand of post-punk. The sophomore album New Signs of Life was a refreshingly spare and stark set of songs with hushed moods and strong melodies. Its new album Between Here & Everywhere seems to have incorporated even more synths and electronic drums for an album that has even further refined the band’s use of repetition as an emotional mnemonic element that has an effect like connecting with ripples of water in the mind all while one hears in the arrangements an element of haunted folk. But one thing is for certain, Death Bells is not really making music in line with the more trendy sounds of modern darkwave and post-punk.
Sunday | 08.07 What:Machine Gun Kelly w/Travis Barker and WILLOW When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Ball Arena Why: Machine Gun Kelly is someone whose blend of hip hop and rock you either like or find odd but one thing he has done outside of providing fodder for tabloid news is champion up and coming artists of promise in the realm of pop by bringing them on to his recordings and/or on tour. This time that artist is WILLOW. The latter for sure had a leg up in the realm of entertainment as the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. But not all children of famous, wealthy people end up doing anything of interest beyond casual curiosity. Fortunately Willow Smith isn’t just skating by on those connections even though they have certainly helped her out along the way. Her musical career thus far has been one of reinvention and exploration from early, teenage pop music to her 2021 album lately I feel EVERYTHING in which she debuted a knack for writing pop-punk songs that really do articulate the overloaded feelings of adolescence well and with lyrics that go beyond tropes of the genre. Look for WILLOW’s new album <COPINGMECHANISM> due out later in the summer, the early singles of which find the songwriter evolving further in her fusion of styles and incorporating them into her own sound.
Monday | 08.08 What: Marissa Nadler w/Bluebook When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Marissa Nadler is one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. Her musical style that may default to comparisons to folk, Gothic Americana, dream pop and what might be described as pastoral metal has an emotional vibrant and intense yet expansive quality that has rendered her music probably too dark for even the psychedelic and freak folk scene and not hard rock enough for heavy music purists. And yet there’s something compellingly otherworldly about Nadler’s songwriting that has rendered all of her albums and collaborations unique and requiring the listener to enter the songwriter’s emotional universe, one which has direct resonance in a universal sense as Nadler’s mezzo-soprano vocals and intimacy with the roots of her own psychology translates well into a personal myth making and storytelling that is instantly captivating. Her latest album The Path of the Clouds may be her finest yet as she was forced to compose the songs during the depths of the first phase of the pandemic and its companion EP the TheWrath of the Clouds reveals a broad range of emotion and an attempt to move through the anxiety and anomy the ongoing crisis is visiting upon everyone with any level of sensitivity. Bluebook these days is very much in sync with the broodingly brilliant energy of Nadler’s own work especially in the band’s current arrangement like a darkwave-flavored chamber folk band.
Tuesday | 08.09 What:Church of the Cosmic Skull w/Lord Buffalo and Keefduster When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church of the Cosmic Skull sounds like it listened to a lot of Ya Ho Wha 13 along the line of arriving at its unusual brand of psychedelic chamber pop. Lord Buffalo has a vibe like the guys in the band went out into the desert and tried to find signs of the Great Spirit in the dark and forgotten places of the landscape and returned a little haunted, a little mad and a little inspired to make expansive, psychedelic rock to reflect those kinds of journeys outside mundane pursuits.
Thursday | 08.11 What:Ian Sweet w/BNNY When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: When Ian Sweet released its album Show Me How You Disappear on March 5, 2021 it was right before an extended period of great uncertainty for live music and music careers in general and the industry surrounding all of that. Perhaps it’s a bit too ironic but also oddly good timing for that record to have come out as its psychedelic pop was an exploration of anxiety, the traumas that fuel it and working through the paralyzing guilt that crashes into your brain when you take on the responsibility for the trauma inflicted and overthinking what could have been and what could be in an endless spiral of self-reinforcing, internalized punishment and turmoil. The album’s songs feel like both a realistic depiction of the feelings of processing the aforementioned and a salve on the psychic turmoil that can feel like an inescapable trap. In 2022 Ian Sweet issued the Star Stuff EP which deals with similar emotional territory as Show Me How You Disappear but feels more at peace in its exquisite atmospherics even when it hits some deep melancholic notes. Chicago’s BNNY has been writing similarly emotionally tender material but its own music is more in the realm of slowcore and dream pop. Singer Jess Viscius sounds like she’s singing out of a book of private thoughts and writings drawn from extensive self-examination and deep observation. He group’s 2021 album Everything is reminiscent of both Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 in its beautifully billowing tonal aesthetic.
Thursday | 08.11 What: Red Fang w/Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough and HELP https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/436500 When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Red Fang is the sludge/doom metal band based out of Portland, Oregon who have managed to carve out of a niche for themselves in a crowded field with imaginative music videos, a healthy sense of humor and songwriting that goes beyond simply making melodic heavy music paired with superior tone sculpting. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are playing a collaborative set with a performance of the 2020 album Stygian Bough Volume I. In typical fashion there is a lot of delicacy and nuance in the crushing and transporting heaviness of the music like a mini-metal orchestra but without the cheesiness of some of the more melodic death metal bands, just mystical, haunting soundscapes that feel like a heroic journey through dark places. Opener HELP is a noise rock band also from Portland whose songs seethe with a rage against the power structures that have been increasingly making life more challenging and unsustainable for most people and in the end all life on earth as well. Unabashedly political that sensibility can be heard in its clashing, twisting, angular assault of drums, guitar, bass and vocals with a triumphant spirit we don’t hear often enough and the 2022 album 2053 is worthy of Killing Joke at its most righteously caustic.
Friday | 08.12 What:Local Natives w/Jordana When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Local Natives have thus far made a pretty good career out of writing the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with undeniably great vocal harmonies that incorporate superbly executed falsetto which isn’t easy to pull off. Opening artist Jordana released her latest album Face The Wall. Jordana Nye played all the instruments and did much of the production for the record. It’s a deeply introspective, confessional set of songs that feel open and gently but strikingly honest. What is perhaps most striking about the songwriting is Jordana’s mastery of transitions and orchestrating the layers of atmosphere. A lot of pop music has solid production or it wouldn’t work but Jordana’s work on the album draws you in and while very real about issues of anxiety and uncomfortable truths makes it all seem like something you can survive even if you may or may not overcome your life’s struggles for good or in the ways you had anticipated.
Friday | 08.12 What:DUG, Moon Pussy, Quits and Almanac Man When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: DUG is comprised of former members of the great noise rock band Buildings from Minneapolis. Noise rock can be a generic term so in the case of DUG it sounded like they took some inspiration from Laughing Hyenas and The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid in equal measure. Moon Pussy from Denver has a catharsis embedded in its eruptive and sometimes caustic but also angularly mind-altering riffs. Quits somehow sounds colossal and on the verge of breakdown and breaking out at the same time making its own sonic barrage exciting and engrossing. Almanac Man somehow splices together an unhinged sludge rock with math-y posthardcore. Like if Clutch and Neurosis had a baby.
Saturday | 08.13 What:Lost 80s Live A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, The English Beat, Naked Eyes, Missing Persons, Stacey Q, Animotion, Dramarama, Tommy Tutone and Musical Youth When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Could be kind of a mess, this many bands on one bill but of course all the acts will get limited stage time to play their 80s hits. But it may also be one of the only opportunities you get to see the legendary and pioneering New Wave band Missing Persons who were always different from its peers and still a compelling live band. Also Flock of Seagulls wrote plenty of evocative, moody synth pop beyond its own hits but will they play songs like “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” or “The More You Live, the More You Love”? Wang Chung is most well known for hits like “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” but its score for the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. proved that the group was capable of crafting enduring art pop of urgency and intensity. Hope if you see their set they’ll indulge a track or two from the soundtrack.
Sunday and Monday | 08.14 and 08.15 What: Hoveriii (with Moose and The Crooked Rugs on 08.14 and with Nolan Potter and Petite Amie on 08.15) When: 7 p.m. Where:Larimer Lounge 08.14 and Vultures 08.15 Why: Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”) recently released its new record A Round of Applause. The record is only eleven tracks and all roughly the length of a radio friendly pop song but it feels like a sprawling yet progressive affair of kaleidoscopic tones and a strong streak of experimentation in what sounds and structures the group was willing to indulge as it took the time to explore what it could do in the studio in shaping and crafting a sound that was fairly different from the jam band stylings of its 2021 album Water For Frogs. Urgent yet playful, the new album finds Hooveriii operating with a focus and economy of style without skimping on imaginative sonic excursions outside the established songwriting lines.
Monday | 08.15 What:Bodega w/The Sickly Hecks and Flora de la Luna When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bodega is a Brooklyn-based art punk/post-punk band whose offbeat sense of humor and fascinating fusion of New Wave rock and the kind of pop band Brian Eno might have started had he not attached himself to Talking Heads and U2 for several years. Its sharply observed lyrics cast modern life in sharp contrast to its historical roots and the legacy thereof at least on its 2022 album Broken Equipment—a title that is such a great metaphor for the tools we’re given to navigate and make sense of the world handed down to us and making do the best we can.
Tuesday | 08.16 What:Spaceface w/Petite Amie and Pleasure Prince When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: For the past decade Spaceface has been crafting otherworldly, psychedelic pop and its 2022 album Anemoia is a genre swapping, colorful sonic collage of sounds and ideas that seems to free associate styles from across decades. A core of fuzzy guitar and ethereal melodies evoke 70s R&B and funk while the songs often sound like summertime music for a place the band !!! might vacation after being woken from cryogenic slumber in 100 years after a generation as yet unborn has dismantled the foundations of our dysfunctional civilization in favor of something more nurturing and fun for everyone. But really its just gorgeous, retro-furturist psychedelic music that somehow sounds hedonistic without coming off corny. Petite Amie is a similarly-minded band from Mexico City whose own music has lush, downtempo funky vibes like they absorbed the entire ABBA catalog along with heapings of Broadcast, Daft Punk and taking in the films of Sofia Coppola. It has that dreamlike quality that exudes benevolence and mystery like few bands do. It’s the kind of music those of us who remember going to roller skating rinks in the 1970s and 1980s wish we could have been listening to instead of the too often tepid pop hits of the day. The band’s 2021 self-titled album is grand showcase of transporting sounds and soothing soundscapes.
Tuesday | 08.16 What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/New Candys https://www.eventbrite.com/e/and-you-will-know-us-by-the-trail-of-dead-with-new-candys-tickets-356700158777?aff=odwdwdspacecraft When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze.
Wednesday | 08.17 What:The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour When: 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Canadian electroclash pioneer and producer Peaches is touring for the anniversary of the release of her genre landmark album The Teaches of Peaches (2000). The album broke Peaches aka Merrill Nisker to a more mainstream audience despite its playfully profane and unabashedly sexual lyrics. Perhaps its biggest hit “Fuck the Pain Away” is a classic of modern electronic music and Peaches’ confrontational and genre bending live show blurs the boundaries between hip-hop, electronic dance music and punk in a way that both challenges preconceptions and welcomes listeners and those who are there for the show to open up to new ways of thinking about subjects you thought you already knew your thinking about.
Thursday | 08.18 What:The Weeknd When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Empower Field at Mile High Why: Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd has spent the last decade and a half building a career as one of the most compelling songwriters and producers in popular music. Whether he lends his imaginative soundscaping to R&B, hip-hop, pop or his unique and powerful interpretation of synth pop or lending his skills to the works of other artists, Tesfaye seems to bring a creative sensibility that finds and brings forth the hidden potential in the music and helps that to highlight and enhance the work overall. His new album Dawn FM (2022) bridges all his musical worlds while also being one of the great darkwave records of the past decade. Expect a spectacle for this show especially given the of necessity large format venue as the songwriter seems the type to want to give people something extra for the trouble of showing up and following his music in general.
Thursday | 08.18 What:The KVB w/M!R!M When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: UK duo The KVB caught the attention of shoegaze and post-punk heads with its early releases starting a decade ago and garnering a bit of a cult following for its highly stylized multimedia aesthetics and seamless synthesis of electronic music and the aforementioned styles. Its 2021 album Unity is a further exploration of the techno production that has informed the band’s music since its early days as fused to downtempo pop in hazy melodies shot through with a forceful energy. M!R!M is the solo project of Jack Milwaukee whose 2022 album Time Traitor recalls a strange blend of early TR/ST and mid-80s synth pop and thus darkwave style but with some R&B sensibility in the beat making.
Friday – Sunday | 08.19 – 08.21 What:Down In Denver Fest When: 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday, 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturday, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Sunday Where: Larimer Lounge Why: In the decay of local culture curation born of a robust local media covering music and the arts in a systematic and interested rather than neglectful manner local music coverage and festivals seemingly lack an awareness of the history of the community of the arts and the context in which new artists emerge. This festival was conceived of when in 2021 the UMS, which had been an actively communitarian endeavor in years prior, seemed to have lost its mooring and sense of mission and musicians representing a swath of local music cut out of that sprawling event realized they could put something together that was very much about the local scene and the people who make it up. Assembled in about a month to six weeks the 2021 edition of Down in Denver was a well orchestrated showcase of some of the best local music at any festival all year. This year the event is slightly bigger but in the same format of two stages and now the first day is a free pre-party featuring some prime local talent as well. No skimping. Look for our extended coverage with interviews throughout this week with some of the artists performing and photographic shares on the Queen City Sounds IG account throughout the weekend. To purchase tickets and for the detailed and most up to date lineup and schedule check the link above or here.
Saturday | 08.20 What:Barstool Messiah album release show for Whiskey Baptismal featuring Erica Brown w/Cyclo Sonic and Dust Beneath Dirt When: 8 p.m. Where: Herman’s Hideaway Why: Barstool Messiah is celebrating the release of its thunderous and soulful new album Whiskey Baptismal with a performance including legendary soul, blues and R&B singer Erica Brown whose vocals in her own music are reason enough to go see the show but whose talents have graced numerous records including the aforementioned and artists one might think well outside her realm of musical expertise. Also on the bill is the exceptional garage punk band Cyclo Sonic comprised of former members of the Fluid, Frantix, Rok Tots and Choosey Mothers.
Saturday | 08.20 What: Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival Feat. NOFX w/Pennywise, Circle Jerks, The Suicide Machines, Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Dwarves, The Bridge City Sinners, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, PKEW PKEW PKEW, Cheap Perfume and All Waffle Trick https://www.fiddlersgreenamp.com/events/detail/429519 When: 11 a.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Until this tour one would have said that the Jawbreaker tour was the punk tour of 2022. But there’s no need for competition in punk or music and this event happening at Fiddler’s Green includes some of punk’s most important bands of both the pop-punk and hardcore era. And also the great Colorado Springs, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume whose powerful and irreverent songs dismantling patriarchal behavior and human cruelty in general are always worth a gander. It would be facile to list off why every band on the bill matters but Circle Jerks, this might be the last time you get to see them on some kind of national tour. The group began after singer Keith Morris departed Black Flag and his combination of deep contempt for vested authority and surreal and pointed sense of humor found a vital outlet in a new band Circle Jerks which produced a body of work so potent and creative beyond simply being foundational to hardcore that its early records still sound fresh and telling it like it is. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the group’s Wild in the Streets album and thus the setlist might lean a little heavy in that direction. The tour earlier in the year proved the Jerks still have the fire so maybe, just maybe, they’ll tour in 2023 for the 40 year anniversary of its 1983 classic Golden Shower of Hits.
Tuesday and Wednesday | 08.23 and 08.24 What: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats w/Caroline Rose When: 6:30 Where: Red Rocks Why: Nathaniel Rateliff first made waves in Denver with his alternative rock band Born in the Flood. The atmospheric, heartfelt music that came out of that project garnered the songwriter and his bandmates fans far and wide and was poised for at least indie fame when it was invited to be on a live music program Matt Pinfield was helming, recording one of the pilot episodes. The show never aired. Rateliff went on to do some solo music as The Wheel which became a band with local musical luminaries and long time collaborators and friends and it too seemed poised for success in the kind of indie success most bands never quite achieve and that didn’t happen either. Nevermind the quality of the material, the music world is fickle and people just as worthy out of Denver have been overlooked for decades. But then Rateliff got together some friends for a band called Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The name probably came along after the music, as these things go, but the 2015 self-titled debut album yielded a left field and unfortunately locally ubiquitous hit in “S.O.B..” But even if you got sick of hearing it in Denver it finally propelled Rateliff into mainstream success and he took some friends along for that ride that one can tell from interviews he knows can end at any time so now the band is simply enjoying that success while it lasts and is now touring in support of its “COVID” album The Future which is the blues, Americana rock blend that has kept the band in the musical mainstream but there is an interesting spaciousness and stark production at points that point to an acute awareness of the fragility and tentative nature of life and what we take for granted when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable. It’s also the band’s best record of its three thus far.
Wednesday| 08.24 What: Mizmor w/Heretical Sect, Spiritual Poison, Cronos Compulsion When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Mizmor’s 2022 album Wit’s End is a meditation on the caustic effect of superstition gone wrong and the extolling of destructive irrationality above compassion and intelligence. In the language of colossal, atmospheric blackened doom it seeks a path through a time of civilizational darkness. Heretical Sect is a blackened death metal outfit from Santa Fe whose spooky atmospherics are driving and not really cartoonishly menacing and the content of shows 2020 album Rapturous Flesh Consumed shares some thematic sentiments as the new Mizmor record. Spiritual Poison you won’t get to see too often and it’s one of Ethan McCarthy’s always interesting noise projects, this one more ambient and enigmatic than even Many Blessings.
Friday | 08.26 What:Extra Kool album release w/DJ Jon Blaze and Calm. When: 7 p.m. Where: Englewood Tavern Why: Extra Kool almost never performs live anymore but Danny Vincennie aka Extra Kool has been writing some of the most heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking and creative raps of the past two decades and more. This night he’s releasing his latest album Not A Ghost…But Dead Inside and it’s proof that if you do something with integrity for your entire career everything you put out will have artistic merit and this album is on par with his entire catalog. Also playing this night is the political and also intensely creative hip-hop duo Calm. with their own literary raps and some of the most colorful, moving and beautiful beats in the Colorado rap game and beyond.
Saturday | 08.27 What:Madeline Peyroux and Joan Osborne When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities Why: Joan Osborne burst onto the national music scene with her hit album 1996 Relish and the single “One of Us.” One might be excused to not being into the single so much and perhaps misjudging Osborne’s other music based on the ubiquity of the single in the year or three after its release. But anyone that got to see Osborne around that time whether on one of her own tours or her appearances on the Lilith Tour in 1997 and 1998 witnessed a passionate performer with a raw, authentic style that couldn’t fail to leave a strong impression of the singer/songwriter as a performer and human capable of projecting her feelings and connecting with the audience in a seemingly direct way. For this show, Osborne will performs Relish in its entirety. Madeline released her own noteworthy debut album Dreamland in 1996 as well. The record garnered her a bit of a following but her 2004 follow-up albums Careless Love marked the beginning of her prolific subsequent career as one of the most popular jazz singers of the past couple of decades.
Monday | 08.29 What: Marissa Nadler w/Seance When: 7 p.m. Where: Vultures Why: See above on 08.08 for Marissa Nadler.
Tuesday | 08.30 What: Cults w/Reptaliens and DJ Boyhollow When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Reptaliens from Portland, Oregon may at initial contact seem like a cool, fairly downtempo, psychedelic indie pop band with earworm vocal melodies. But the more you delve into its lyrics and the subject matter of its albums something far stranger emerges with songs inspired by left field science fiction, bizarre pop culture artifacts and esoteric knowledge. After all who names an album VALIS after the 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick based on true events with possibly metaphysical experiences with an alien intelligence. Headliners Cults enjoyed real indie buzz in the early 2010s when its self-titled debut was released on Columbia. Fortunately the hype wasn’t overblown and Cults’ dream pop offerings had some vitality as evidenced by its often spirited live shows.
Tuesday | 08.30 What:Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters w/Totem Pocket, Innerspace, Abandons and Brother Saturn When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: This is an all post-rock/post-metal show featuring Salt Lake City’s Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters who might more rightly be considered a shoegaze band with Kate Hoffmeister’s dusky vocals. Abandons is the kind of band who maybe came out of an early interest in progressive metal and art rock that evolved into a skillful crafting of soundscapes and textures in broad, dynamic strokes without writing music aimed at fitting in with a genre or subgenre which is why it’s difficult to make comparisons except to describe the music except partially as sculpted waves of mood. Brother Saturn is Drew Miller’s post-rock project which means some blissed out guitar tonal compositions and electronics that are the more visceral side of his other projects in ambient music.
Wednesday | 08.31 What:Elder w/Belzebong and Dreadnought When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:ELDOVAR – A Story of Darkness & Light (2021) pretty much established former Massachusetts-based progressive metal band Elder and German psychedelic band Kadavar as purveyors of a heavy art rock that is as creatively ambitious as it is compelling beyond any ability to appreciate the technical skill going into it or the theory. It’s cinematic in the way that mid-70s Genesis was and the delicate touches in the composition give context to heavier passages and the album doesn’t get stuck in the tropes of any genre. Yes, we’ve heard epic, science fiction flavored hard psychedelic rock before but this album feels like something different and worthy of a listen to anyone with an interest in psychedelic rock and where doom can go when it’s not stuck in its familiar habits. Dreadnought is a band whose tribal, heavy pagan psychedelia is a good fit for a bill like this where there isn’t a tired formula guiding anyone’s music.
Wednesday | 08.31 What:Hiatus Kaiyote When: 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.
Saturday – Monday | September 4-6 What: Down In Denver Fest When: Labor Day Weekend Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With the erosion of the national and local media especially in coverage of local music and culture as a parallel to increasing income inequality the curation of a local scene virtually everywhere in America has all but disappeared. Publications that once served as active legacy institutions that traditionally documented and preserved local culture in a robust way have either dissolved or transitioned to a digital marketing portal model with a subsequent narrowing of content and cultural mission. Music festivals often following a lifestyle branding concept in sync with the lifestyle model of much of digital media following the implosion of the blogosphere can feel like Philip K. Dick circa Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was more of a prophet than we’d prefer to believe. The Down in Denver Fest organizers remember a time when the rich and broad diversity of Denver’s local scene was more honored and represented in local music festivals and older artists were not expected to retire but, rather, respected for their past and current efforts. While Denver and other cities are in disarray with the forces of drastic income inequality and subsequent gentrification local cultural history seems to pass into irrelevance like a social media feed more quickly than at any previous moment in human history, episodes without context, products to consume and discard. But this is antithetical to lived human experience and human life and our collective craving for connection not just to other people but our experiential, existential context that defines our lives for a certain period or our entire lives. Maybe Down In Denver Fest won’t provide this to everyone but the inspiration behind it is the understanding that local culture and the people who make it a living thing past and present are not just the atomized dots of a marketing galaxy but a continuum that can be and is accessible. So go expecting to see a broad slice of bands representing decades of Denver music history from bands from a variety of genres and styles to DJs from the Denver underground. Visit the event website for the line-up and schedule and to sample artists. Also listen to the Queen City Sounds Podcast featuring a handful of stories from the Denver scene from some of the people that were involved and have helped to make various corners of the city’s musical milieu.
Monday | September 6 What:Midwife w/Sympathy Pain and Sketches When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Midwife is touring more broadly in support of her 2021 album Luminol, a soothing yet heart wrenching record mourning deep loss and fumbling for healing the caustic burns on your heart from the death of friends, the crumbling of the cultural infrastructure that gave one’s life more definition than it might have had and a nation and international community in disarray from grand forces of inequality and the rise of fascism and science denial with no seeming relief on the horizon. It isn’t a dire record but an honest one cast in gossamer guitar work and introspective, dreamlike vocals that tap into those dark places of the mind and not to say it’s all going to be okay but rather as a reminder that you’re not crazy and your feelings of despair, deep discontent and righteous anger are real and valid. Midwife is also performing at Trident Bookstore in Boulder on September 8 and The Coast in Fort Collins on September 12.
Thursday | September 9 What:Denver Meatpacking Company w/I’m A Boy, Wiff and Sleep Demons When: 7 p.m./8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver Meatpacking Company pull liberally from 90s alternative rock for inspiration but its fuzzy guitar work is couched in solid pop hooks that prevent it from sounding like a throwback act. Which makes it a good pairing with I’m A Boy and its own power pop sensibilities and refreshingly unaffected love for bombastic and theatrical rock and roll.
Sunday | September 12 What: Denver Does Denver When: 1-10 p.m. Where: Green Valley Ranch Town Center Amphitheater 5060 Argonne St., Denver, CO 80249 Why: It has been 11 years since the last Denver Does Denver event happened when various musicians in the Denver scene covered music by peers and influences in local music at the Meadowlark Bar and its environs. This reboot of the event, once again curated by educator and member of experimental funk and world music phenoms Pink hawks, Yuzo Nieto, is taking place outdoors in Green Valley Ranch and features a typically fascinating set of musicians showcasing the creative wares of other bands and songwriters that otherwise wouldn’t normally be thus recognized for their impact.
Thursday | September 16 What:St. Vincent When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Annie Clark has been experimenting with concepts across her musical career and giving us not only a respectable body of work and consistently fascinating songwriting and inventive musicianship but a creative arc in which she’s willing to take risks. None more so than her 2021 album Daddy’s Home. It is clearly a well-arranged series of vignettes about life in New York City as told through the sonic lens of 70s pop and rock like an East Coast answer to Joni Mitchell’s fantastic and insightful 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. The structure of the album feels like reading a short novel with a cinematic scope and revelations about character and concept reminiscent of the flow of Virgnia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Every tour, certainly for her last three albums, has involved creative and entrancing production and even set design subverting the standard rock and pop paradigm so if you go expect some of that deep creativity for which Annie Clark and St. Vincent are rightfully known.
Friday | September 17 What:Herbie Hancock When: 7 p.m. Where: Ellie Caulkins Opera House Why: Herbie Hancock and his stunningly brilliant keyboard and synth work alongside his mindblowingly talented collaborators put on one of the greatest live shows going regardless of genre. His roots in some of the jazz legends of the 60s and 70s are impressive enough but his albums under his own name often reveal a passion and genius for composition that he channels into accessible and engrossing songs and performances that remain relevant and powerful.
Friday and Saturday | September 17-18 What:Westword Music Showcase When: See schedule per day at http://www.westwordshowcase.com Where: Rino Arts District and Mission Ballroom Why: The Westword Music Showcase returns with an expanded presentation in the Rino Arts District northwest of downtown Denver including performances at the Mission Ballroom for headlining acts like Young The Giant, Kaytranada, Thundercat, Matoma, Hippo Campus and Duke Dumont with a bevy of local acts nominated by experts in the local scene tapped for their knowledge by the long running alternative weekly paper.
Monday | September 20 What: Mannequin Pussy w/Angel Du$t and Pinkshift When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy has long commented on sexism and its effect on identity and how those issues dovetail into the colonist mentality and the most deleterious and sometimes subtle corrosive effects of capitalism. But doing so in a way that seems as tender and sensitive as it is ferocious, cast in noise rock and melodic punk. In 2021 Mannequin Pussy released its gloriously caustic EP Perfect.
Monday and Tuesday | September 20 and 21 What: Mdou Moctar When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mahamadou Souleymane is a Tuareg songwriter from Niger who is known to the musical world at large as Mdou Moctar with a growing international following despite the lyrics to his songs being in Tamasheq. His intricate guitar work and sincere performance style renders what might seem exotic to some Americans immediately relatable. Moctar’s fusion of blues and rock with West African musical styles and sounds come off both familiar and arrestingly fresh. In 2021 he released the album Afrique Victime through Matador, his first for an imprint other than specialist label Sahel Sounds. An intense and engaging performer, Moctar’s gracious and self-effacing demeanor doesn’t quite prepare you for the emotionally charged journey of the show but makes it one you want to take.
Tuesday | September 21 What: Twin Tribes and Wingtips w/Plague Garden When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: A great pairing of the Brownsville, Texas lo-fi post-punk band Twin Tribes and Chicago’s darkwave pop sensations Wingtips. The former released a beautifully curated remix album in 2021 called Altars including remixes from Turkish post-punk legends She Past Away, Dave Parley of Prayers, Wingtips and Bootblacks. Wingtips’ new record Cutting Room Floor is a gorgeously composed set of expansive and bright yet hazily moody and reflective pop songs subverting the tropes of sounds and aesthetics borrowed from 80s era synth pop by many modern artists and seemingly as influenced by the likes of Thompson Twins and Howard Jones as Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. Opening the show is Plague Garden whose 2021 album Requiem of Souls is a great expansion on their brooding and atmospheric blend of industrial and post-punk into more pop territory including an excellent cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 hit single “Twisting in My Sobriety” that highlights the song’s then unfashionable level of self-examination.
Tuesday | September 21 What:Torres w/Ariana and The Rose When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres has from early in her career blended a more electronic pop aesthetic with a raw and gritty folk-inflected songwriting style and dynamically emotional vocals. Her 2021 album Thirstier is brimming with high contrast sounds that give the songs a forcefulness that was always there in her music but made unmistakable this time around.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Waltzer w/Vision Video, Voight, Lord Friday the 13th When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Waltzer is Sophie Sputnik who fronted punk band Killmama for more than a few years. But her music theater background seems to have been yearning for greater expression if the debut Waltzer album Time Traveler is any indication and the bizarre music video for “Destroyer” which is like a humorous horror movies as a backdrop to soulful, R&B pop. Maybe Sputnik got to listening to a lot of Erykah Badu, Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren but she makes that lush, almost orchestral sound seem spare as well. Athens, Georgia-based post-punk/pop band Vision Video is an interesting contrast with its 2021 album Inked in Red reminiscent of 80s jangle pop, XTC and Pink Turns Blue. Voight is a Denver-based band that collides together noise rock, industrial/techno beats, emotionally-charged vocals and caustic shoegaze-y soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Front 242 w/Consolidated, Blackcell and DJ N810 When: 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Front 242 is one of the pioneers of the EBM wing of industrial music of the 80s with its stark visual style akin to a stylized Futurist aesthetic. Claiming to be apolitical and even amoral, Front 242’s pulsing, atmospheric dance music nevertheless takes aim at corrupt religious and political figures without an explicitly verbalized critique, rather choosing to present them as absurd and cartoonish. By contrast the overtly political industrial band Consolidated is part of this tour and from its album titles, to its music and confrontational performance style the group from San Francisco leaves no doubt about its leftist politics and activist cultural orientation while also injecting very pointed commentary with humor that also manages not to distract from the message. Denver’s long-running noise/industrial/EBM duo Blackcell opens the show with its own richly imagined and immersive soundscapes.
Wednesday | September 22 What:Ratboys X Wild Pink w/Bellhoss When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Earlier in 2021 Wild Pink released A Billion Little Lights, a pop album of lush orchestration and sage and sharply observed comments on one’s changing perspectives and priorities as one ages into adulthood physically and psychologically and the subsequent realization that the sureties of now will sometimes seem like the follies and cringe-worthy moments of the future. While songwriter John Ross wrote the album from the perspective of a single human life the themes seem to resonate strongly with society overall in the past decade and coming to terms with blind spots, injustice, inequality and chronically bad habits that have a fallout for oneself and others.
Saturday | September 25 What: Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: Two giants of Denver sludge metal, Lost Relics and Never Kenezzard both demonstrate how heavy, doomy metal can be dynamic and even expansively psychedelic while hitting hard. Expect a new Lost Relics EP soon and Never Kenezzard’s follow-up to the excellent 2016 album Never Say…
Monday | September 27 What:Esmé Patterson When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: The beginning of the global pandemic in March 2020 landed just in time to thwart plans for Esmé Patterson and her band to tour in support of her then new album There Will Come Soft Rains. The new record showcased Patterson’s ear for subtle emotional dynamics in songwriting and for expressing the complexity of one’s feelings in an uncluttered way. The spare melodies of the new batch of songs also demonstrate an attention to space in the songs perhaps as a symbolic way of honoring the need to such in one’s life in order to make sense of what can feel overwhelming. Not a pandemic record but sure seems like one that addresses little things in life we often ignore in our rush to push through everything when we need to and never really taking the time to feel what we need to in order to maintain a healthy state of mind.
Wednesday | September 29 What: Judas Priest w/Sabaton When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Perpetually underrated yet highly influential, Judas Priest is one of the pioneering bands of heavy metal that still occasionally tours and is still a powerful live act due in no small part to singer Rob Halford’s expressive and operatic vocals. With hits like “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” from its 1980 album British Steel, Judas Priest started to break into the mainstream with subsequent regular rotation on MTV. Getting to see Judas Priest at a theater like the Mission Ballroom with its excellent sound and seating layout is likely to be the most enjoyable environment to take in the band’s broad range of moods and highly charged dynamics.
Thursday | September 30 What: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Fat Tony and Cadence Weapon are rappers from Houston and Edmonton, Canada respectively but who both draw on an electric palette of sounds and influences and their use of imaginative beats and production have set them apart from many peers from early on in their respective careers. Their individual blends of classic rapping with free associating sounds and textures in the beat with an ear for songwriting and impassioned delivery make this one of the hip-hop shows to see this year in Denver. Fat Tony is touring following the 2020 release of his album Exotica and Cadence Weapon with his 2021 album ParallelWorld.