Best Shows in Denver 2/27/20 – 3/4/20

Thursday | February 27

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The Shivas, photo by Adria Ivanitsky

What: The Shivas w/The Savage Blush and Slynger
When: Thursday, 2.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Shivas were pushing the modern garage psych aesthetic forward before it became a played out quantity in the 2010s. But because the band was always weirder and willing to explore the noisier, more extreme ends of the style its music has remained refreshingly different and genre bend-y up to and including its 2019 album Dark Thoughts.

What: SG1, Liptruce and Turner Jackson
When: Thursday, 2.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | February 28

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Whitacre, photo by Brandon Johnson

What: Susto w/Whitacre and Molly Parden
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Susto’s 2019 album Ever Since I Lost My Mind finds the indie rock band branching into more urgent and gritty songwriting territory without losing the thoughtfulness. Maybe the tenor of the times has seeped into the drive behind the new material but the band’s gorgeously languid vibes seem ticked more than a bit toward a focused intentionality with the music. Not that it lacked intensity at moments before, it’s just palpable this time out. Also on the bill is Denver-based band Whitacre. Paul Whitacre has made a name for himself since moving to the Mile High City in 2016 for his introspective yet brightly upsweeping songs. The group’s new album Seasons, out on April 17, finds its songs, produced by Joe Richmond (who has worked with Tennis and Churchill), polished and shining with a warmth and sincere optimism.

What: Modern Leisure w/Ashley Koett and Big Dopes
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure’s Casey Banker’s keen ear for dynamic and entrancing pop melodies is matched only by his similar gift for sharply observed turns of phrase. Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude is brimming with vivid portraits of life in a generation whose future has been compromised but trying to maintain a sense of hope for better times ahead without succumbing to nihilistic despair.

What: Chuck Prophet
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall
Why: Chuck Prophet was one of the pioneers of alt-country as a member of Green On Red from its genre-defining 1985 album Gas Food Lodging through the early 90s. During his career as a solo artist his knack for crafting poetic imagery and dusty power pop has seemed endless. His most recent record, 2017’s Bobby Fully Died for Your Sins is a meditation on the passing of musical giants and maintaining a vision for hope in dark times.

What: Drune w/Earthdiver and Dead Characters
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

What: Youthanizer debut and Tuck Knee Tour Kick Off w/Gack, XdeadbeatX and Wolfblitzer
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Luna Luna w/Retrofette and Nightlove
When: Friday, 2.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: MxPx w/Teenage Bottle Rocket
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | February 29

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Rachael Sage, photo courtesy the artist

What: Howard Jones acoustic Trio performance w/Rachael Sage
When: Friday, 2.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Synth pop pioneer Howard Jones will perform as part of an acoustic trio for this show interpreting his iconic hits of the 80s in a format that will likely surprise. Anyone that has witnessed Jones in the more electronic incarnation of the music knows that his songwriting is at the heart of the appeal of his songs. Opening the show is Rachael Sage. The New York City-based artist has been releasing music on her own MPress Records for two decades including fourteen of her own albums distinguished by an eclectic range of sounds and styles that have informed her imaginative pop songs. He latest album Character, out March 6, came out of her time recovering from endometrial cancer throughout 2018. The record is informed by a sense of humility, realistic yet poetic assessments of life’s possibilities and horizons when facing your own mortality. Sage discards the bravado we hear too much in American music in the face of adversity, it acknowledges the frailty and fragility of the situations we may find ourselves when you can’t just magically snap back and be okay. It wisely takes a sensitive and deeply compassionate yet honest approach to every subject and reveals itself to be a deep record about life’s challenges in general whatever your situation.

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SPELLS, photo by Tom Murphy

What: SPELLS (record release) w/Drakülas and People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: Denver’s SPELLS is releasing its new record Stimulants & Sedatives on Chuck Coffey’s Snappy Little Numbers imprint. In the past one might have described SPELLS as essentially a pop punk band. But on this album there’s more dissonance and grit to the music to go along with the rambunctious tunefulness that has been the hallmark of the band’s sound from the beginning. The lyrics are a sharp mix of self-awareness and self-deprecation with stories of realistic expectations rather than bullish bravado, a very adult approach that contrasts well with the raw energy of the performances.

What: Church Fire, Grief Ritual and Limbwrecker
When: Saturday, 2.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Bannock St. Garage

What: The Corner Girls w/Vic N’ The Narwhals and Beau Beverage
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Authority Zero w/Over Time and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 2.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Tuesday | March 3

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Ceschi and David Ramos w/Gregory Pepper, Midwife, Damn Selene and CFX Project
When: Tuesday, 3.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Ceschi Ramos is the co-founder of Fake Four, a label putting out some of the most forward thinking hip-hop of the past decade and a half. The confessional intensity of his rapidfire vocal delivery wrapped in atmospheric beats is reminiscent of Sole, with whom he has worked, and his vivid, personal storytelling issues forth in almost pointillistic couplets like a mosaic establishing an informal, organic narrative. On the bill also is experimental hip-hop artist Damn Selene and ambient folk phenom Midwife who is set to tour the US in March and April as well an appearance at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands.

Wednesday | March 4

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R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: DA’AN, Corey Daggers and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: This typically eclectic line-up for Weird Wednesday includes a mix of electronic dance music, punk Americana and soulful hip-hop. DA’ANS is a new project that brings together the luminous vocals of Glynnis Braan of Lady of Sorrows and the electronic production and beat-making genius of Lawrence Snell, drummer of Meet the Giant, with songs and a theatrical performance that is a true synthesis of rave and darkwave. Corey Daggers often performs by himself with a guitar and on occasion with a full band. But either incarnation is a vital flavor of what might be described as dark carnival emo Americana. R A R E B Y R D $ bring a swagger, sensuality and emotional warmth to ambient beats and lyrics that are at turns playful, earthy and deeply, transformatively vulnerable.

What: Shigeto w/Mux Mool and Venus Cruz
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Rakim
When: Wednesday, 3.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver 03/29/18 – 04/04/18

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Colin Ward as Alphabets circa 2010. Raptor Jazz, a celebration of Ward and his legacy at The Black Box on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | March 29, 2018

 

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.

Who: DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell
When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.

Who: Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.

Friday | March 30, 2018

 

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It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Monocle Band & The Dress Downs
When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder
Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.

Who: Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.

Who: Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty
When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.

Saturday | March 31, 2018

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Chrome circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chrome w/EchoBeds and Phallic Meditation
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Check out our write-up on Chrome and interview with Helios Creed for some reasons to go to this show.

 

What: Raptor Jazz a Ceremony of Life for Colin Ward/Fundraiser feat. Docile Rottweiler, French Kettle Station, UR Presents Acid Rain (live), Sugarsplat 2.0, Shaman Fight Club, AcidBat, Kid Mask, Toucan, visuals by Orchidz3ro and Jak Turbo
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Colin Ward left an indelible imprint on Denver’s DIY art and music world during his short life before he died at the end of January 2018. This event is a celebration of his life and influence performed by many of those closest to him and a fundraiser for his memorial fund to preserve his art and music going into the future.

Monday | April 2, 2018

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Herse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard
When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.

Tuesday | April 3, 2018

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Pale Waves, photo by Danny North

Who: Pale Waves w/Inheaven
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.

Who: A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.

Wednesday | April 4, 2018

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Boy Harsher, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight
When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain II on May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 01/11/18 – 01/17/18

 

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St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 11, 2018

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Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

Who: Erica Brown w/The Movers & Shakers 
When: Thursday, 01.11, 2 shows doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Powerhouse blues singer Erica Brown has been a staple of Denver music for decades at this point. Sure, she has shared the stage with numerous noteworthy blues and R&B musicians including Al Green, B.B. King and the like and that’s cool. But more importantly, Brown’s powerful voice has been present not just in her own bands and solo efforts but also in Denver music in general. She has done vocals for Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band and weird funk group Cherry Bomb Club (which later meant joining Warlock Pinchers on stage for their 2010 reunion shows). She has contributed to albums from Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Xiren. Erica Brown is a multifaceted talent who has done things on her own terms and established a reputation for excellence that is all but unique in Denver.

Who: Infernal Coil, Inoculated Life, Augur and Heathen Burial
When: Thursday, 01.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Could be described as the industrial grind show since it involves Boise, Idaho’s Infernal Coil, Colorado’s own Heathen Burial, the hanging buzzsaw atmospherics of Denver’s Inoculated Life and the ritualistic vibe of black metal band Augur from Denver as well. It’ll be at Mutiny so it’ll be intimate in the back area for such a show with such abrasively gloomy music. Perfect.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer, FULL BLEED, Lepidoptera
When: Thursday, 01.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: It’s Musical Mayhem, the monthly (or is it bi-monthly?) showcase hosted by Claudia Woodman and simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. You never quite know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be a little different, as it were, and worthwhile. Full Bleed says “Droney psychedelic stoner metal shoegaze instrumental improv RöCK from Denver.” Lepidoptera is meditative guitar, field recording and keyboard-y soundscapes. Bonnie Weimer, though, has been in various projects in Denver over the years including her solo project. “Banjo Bonnie” may play some traditional banjo stuff in her set but mostly its originals that take a familiar sound in unfamiliar directions.

Friday | January 12, 2018

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I’m A Boy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Paperbark, Venereal Crush and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Ice Troll is a sprawling psychedelic, doom prog band. Paperbark uses modular synths to create deeply textured ambient drones. Venereal Crush from Dubuque, Iowa is probably well within the realm of noise but its compositions feel like ambient music or composed sound environments using organic/live instruments alongside incredibly minimal synths. Is New Standards Men post-rock? Maybe so but it is also reminiscent of a doomier, more melodic Laddio Bolocko or Dazzling Killmen. Fortunately bands like this and some others playing venues up and down South Broadway are helping to keep the neighborhood a little weird in the face of Nü Denver tourist culture.

Who: Deer Creek w/Still Valley, Piojos and Drune
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: The doom/sludge rock thing kinda died off in Colorado around a decade ago but mutated and turned into something maybe even better. Deer Creek has its roots back to the older sludge scene and remains one of the heaviest bands in Denver. Piojos includes former members of various heavy acts from Denver and Pueblo including Black Lamb. But pedigree aside, the sharply irreverent humor of Piojos can be heard all over its excellent 2016 album Fuck Everyone in Pueblo. Need it be mentioned they’re based in Pueblo and some people didn’t get the humor? Still Valley from Colorado Springs is classic sludge doom in the vein of Sleep, Acid Bath and Grief.

Who: Surrender Signal, Laurium and Old Sport
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly (Alamo Drafthouse, West 4255 W. Colfax location)
Why: Surrender Signal’s gritty melodies and fluid dynamics are reminiscent of Lungfish and East Coast post-punk/post-hardcore bands of the early 90s. Maybe a little Jawbox, Slint and Quicksand are in there too. Old Sport blurs the line between post-hardcore and melodic math rock and doesn’t skimp on the raw energy and passion in its performance.

Who: I’m A Boy, Grammar School and Teacup Gorilla facebook.com/events/136041710495512
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: I’m A Boy is one of the few straight ahead rock and roll bands that doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to tap into the realm of classic rock. That’s because singer/guitarist Jimmi Nasi is a gifted songwriter in his own right who has a knack for knowing when a song works rather than lean on someone else’s music as a prop. Bassist Whitney Reher and drummer Jeffrey Mince provide a simple but dynamic jumping board for Nasi’s melodic gyrations, Nasi and Rehr striking poses because it’s more fun for them and more enjoyable as someone there for the show. Teacup Gorilla manages to write glam rock with inventive atmospheres and a theatrical flair of their own. Apparently Grammar School is bringing ragtime back.

Saturday | January 13, 2018

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Sgt. D’s List, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Choosey Mothers
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Choosey Mothers came out of Denver’s 80s punk scene with former members of bands that are even difficult to find online like the Trontils and Malice in Wonderland. But the Mothers established themselves as a raw punk band of note in the 90s at a time when the Dead Silence, Burnt Fase and, of course, The Fluid were exerting a strong influence on Colorado punk generally. This reunion show is to celebrate the 50th birthday of Sam Grampsas of The Mothers so it’s only fitting the show, which is free, is happening at Mutiny Information Café which is run by other smart, old school Denver punkers.

Who: Mr. Atomic, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: When a lot of 90s fuzz rock gets co-opted by a new generation of wannabes a watering down of what made that older music worthwhile is inevitable. Fortunately, these bands pushed that kind of rock and roll into more interesting territories and actually rock rather than playing AT it. Television Generation, sure, sounds like they got put into a deep freeze in 1993 Seattle and woken up in recent years. But its songwriting is strong and they’ve absorbed influences that have come along since grunge imploded in the mid-90s. Meet the Giant sounds like what happens when people who may have tried to make sludge rock got bored and wanted to write dynamic songs that would be fun to play instead of living up to a stoner rock cliché in their garage.

Who: Sgt. D’s List (S.O.D. Tribute), Hallowed Screams (Slayer tribute) and FUBAR
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: Normally tribute bands are kinda wack. But Sgt. D’s List is comprised of veterans of Denver’s grind, death metal and thrash scenes who bring to life the music of a S.O.D., one of the early crossover bands and tongue in cheek in a way that no one would do these days for obvious reasons. That band included members of Anthrax and Nuclear Assault and became an influence on metal and hardcore from its 1985 inception.

Who: Hot Rize 40th Anniversary
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: A gala celebration of one of Colorado’s most influential bands, Hot Rize, who helped to make modern bluegrass accessible to a wide audience without watering down the virtues of the music through attaching it directly to other genres of music. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of bluegrass, go check out Hot Rize and see an engaging live act whose musicianship and songwriting speaks for itself beyond genre. For this event, the band will bring in friends/guests Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas and more

Who: Shattered Mirrors – GSTV, Ritual, Julian Black and guest DJ Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Box
Why: This is the newest music night hosted by DJ Ritual. This edition including a guest DJ set from Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ. Given Erickson’s dry yet surreal sense of humor, he may end up playing a bunch of dance-worthy stuff that isn’t in what one might presume to be his musical bailiwick.

Monday | January 15, 2018

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St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: St. Vincent: Fear the Future Tour
When: Monday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Annie Clark was once a member of Polyphonic Spree but as St. Vincent she has long since distinguished herself as one of the most interesting songwriters and musicians of the past decade with a string of albums that explore the nature of identity, the complexities of dreams and aspirations and the way unexamined social norms warp our natural growth. Her latest album, 2017’s Masseduction, seemed more personal than previous offerings and hit with the emotional nuance and finely crafted dramatics of a J.G. Ballard novel.

Tuesday and Wednesday | January 16 and 17, 2018

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DIane Schuur. photo courtesy dianeschuur.com

Who: Diane Schuur
When: Tuesday, 01.16 and Wednesday 01.17, two shows each night, doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Diane Schuur is cooler than most of us because her mentors include Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra. She has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Quincy Joes, Dizzy Gillespie and BB King. Among others. Her emotive vocals and expressive pianowork has garnered the admiration of her peers and a fanbase appreciative of an artist that doesn’t just have chops but the soul and poetic, lyrical sensibility to guide her songcraft. She’s playing four shows in Denver, early and mid-evening shows, on both Tuesday 1/16 and Wednesday 1/17.