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.
This sprawling best of list was intended for publication in January 2021 but other priorities got in the way and I had written about many of these in brief in my year end best column for the December 2020 print edition of Birdy magazine in December. Others I wrote up for Birdy throughout the year. All of that text is here hopefully not in a form with my errors edited back in. At any rate it begins with what I’m going to call the album of the year, Type II by UK post-punk experimentalists Sex Swing. It not only stretched post-punk beyond the usual boundaries these days and it articulated the conflict, the outage and confusion of a world coming to terms with the great shortcomings of modern, international capitalism, the inadequacy of the conservative/far right and neoliberal government to address the needs of people across decades and most painfully and poignantly in the moment. That agony and anomie can be heard throughout the album but even separate from that context it’s just a great, experimental rock album. The original verbiage for the Birdy piece reads “An uncomromisingly mind-altering psychedelic noise rock ride through 2020 hell.” With any luck we’ll see the band in North America sooner than later and see for ourselves if the live show delivers. What follows is the rest of the best of list for 2020.
A.M. Pleasure Assassins | Careless Laughter | Self-released This latest EP from Fort Collins-based, math-y post-punk band A.M. Pleasure Assassins sounds like it was written after a long period of contemplation and self-imposed exile from one’s usual social activities. “Said Yer Outta Gas” is imbued with a rush of exuberance reflected in its words about emerging from winter into a period of new beginnings. “Get It Right” finds the band waxing into the warped garage punk territory like something one would expect out of Memphis, Tennessee the past two decades — raw and ragged yet bracing. “Cain Was Killing Abel” strikes a more contemplative tone and the sprawling “Pretty Dead Beat” creates a beautifully hypnotic pulse of sounds with bell tones processed through reverb and distorted drones for an effect like a late 90s Yo La Tengo track. The four songs give the impression of nostalgic reflection, but one where you see and feel deeply the joys and pains of a good time in your life that you are wise enough now to know to enjoy in its full measure rather than through the lens of selective romanticism.
Abrams | Modern Ways | Sailor Records
Adulkt Life | Book of Curses | What’s Your Rupture?
ADULT. | Perception Is/As/Of Deception | Dais Records Darkly urgent industrial dance anthems to purge today’s desperation, confusion and chaos.
Angel Olsen | Whole New Mess | Secretly Group A tender yet bracingly fragile portrait of the realization that you can never adequately prepare for everything life might throw your way.
Anna von Hausswolff | Sacro Bosco | Southern Lord
A Shoreline Dream | Melting | Late Night Weeknight With its first release since 2018’s Waitout EP, A Shoreline Dream presents a set of songs that seems less ethereal than their previous output. From opening track “Turned Too Slow” to closing song “Atheris Hispida” the progressive shoegaze duo has seemingly focused its attention on the texture and physicality of the music. One is tempted to say the guitars are more like hard rock, but only if your idea of hard rock is more in the vein of Swervedriver. But “Downstairs Sundays” has more in common with folk music in its intricate guitar interplay though threading through an uplifting, introspective drone. A Shoreline Dream still gives us its usual transporting melodies, but this time its astral realms are more focused and vivid as though coming out of its musical dreamstate into a phase of making those dreams real.
Autechre | Sign | Warp Records Cleanses the mind with textural tones and hypnotically immersive, abstract rhythms.
Bambara | Stray | Wharf Cat Records
Bestial Mouths | RESURRECTEDINBLACK | RUNE & RUIN
Bison Bone | Find Your Way Out | self-released
Black Wing | No Moon | The Flenser
blackcell | Burn the Ashes | self-released Denver-based EBM/IDM band Blackcell returns with its first full- length album since 2013’s In the Key of Black. Matt Jones’ processed, distorted vocals sound as ever like a dispossessed human resisting an ever increasing mechanization of life. These dark dance songs articulate so well the struggles of the human condition and seem so resonant for today as meaningful choices and control over your own life are leeched away into increasing labor defined by a gig economy, subscription and streaming services in the modern equivalent of pay-per-view, and a failing political and economic system that has channeled all the world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, nickeled and dimed to death and expected to take it like it is or not to streamline the technocratic wealth pipeline. Blackcell offers no answers but this time, its Gary Numan-esque end of the world techno feels particularly cathartic right now.
BleakHeart | Dream Griever | Sailor Records
Body Double | Milk Fed | Zum Vignettes of personal psychological horror expressed as seething, angular post-punk pop.
Body Negative | Fragments | Track Number Records
Bootblacks | Thin Skies | Artoffact Records Soaring synths and guitar sketch a vivid image of a deep yearning for personal transcendence and rebirth.
Boris and Merzbow | 2R012P0 | Relapse Records Alien soundscapes of stunning immediacy that challenge preconceptions of all artists involved.
Botanist | Photosynthesis | The Flenser
Cabaret Voltaire | Shadow of Fear | Mute
Camila Fuchs | Kids Talk Sun | Felte Records Avant-garde, psychedelic synth pop for tropical vacations in parallel dimensions.
Causer | Hellebore: Demos | self-released
Chicano Batman | Invisible People | ATO Records Un-ironic, un-corny psych Tropicalia love songs for an inclusive future of unified humanity.
Choir Boy | Gathering Swans | Dais Records Every song is an introspective Goth R&B ode to radical self care.
Church Fire | Some Lonely Wip | self-released This collection of “unfinished/unmixed/unmastered/instrumentals” bridges the gap between Nine Inch Nails and Crystal Castles with their raw, lo-fi, maximalist glitch. Without the highly emotive and cathartic vocals that have been part of Church Fire’s signature sound we are invited to visit the soundscapes that give those vocals a powerful musical context. What is obvious here is the band’s playfulness and gift for pairing dark tonal choices and buoyant rhythms anchored by spare textural elements. On “pixie death tickle” there are wisps of voices but they serve as more a musical aside from the strong, bright, urgent main passages. The “wip” in the title may refer to “works-in-progress” but these songs would work as mood pieces in a soundtrack to the inevitable English language Inio Asano manga film in mirroring that artist’s talent for simultaneously expressing melancholia and joy.
cindygod | EP 2 | Fire Talk
Clipping. | Visions of Bodies Being Burned | Sub Pop Brooding, seething, menacing industrial hip-hop horror stories from an all too near future.
Cyclo Sonic | Pile of Bones EP | self-released
Damn Selene | Nobody By That Name Lives Here Anymore | self-released
Dan Deacon | Mystic Familiar | Domino Records
Dead Voices On Air | Stone Cross Shuttle Worn | self-released
Deafbrick (Deafkids + Pet Brick) | s/t | Rocket Recordings
Death Bells | New Signs Of Life | Dais Records Atmospheric post-punk brimming with an infectious sense of hope after a time of struggle.
Death Valley Girls | Under the Spell of Joy | Suicide Squeeze Acid jazz flavored garage psych with an ear for emotionally rich infinite horizons.
Drew Danburry | Icarus Phoenix A Sides and B Sides 2020 | Telos
Drew McDowell | Angalma | Dais Records
Dyad | Dormant | self-released Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt are perhaps better known for their participation in acts like Howling Hex and Esmé Patterson’s live band respectively as well as their production work for Echo Beds. But DORMANT from their long-running collaborative project DYAD showcases their mutual knack for genre-bending IDM-esque soundscapes. DYAD freely blends elements of non-Western polyrhythms, intricate and textured instrumentation, luminous jazz keyboard progressions and tasteful electronic arrangements that convey an eclectic and international flavor. Imagine music equally influenced by Herbie Hancock, 80s Ethiopian synth pop, Daft Punk, Warp Records artists and informed by a deep sense of play, and you will have some idea of the soothing and imagination stirring quality of this music and its brilliantly new age downtempo future jazz sounds.
eHpH | Infrared | self-released This Denver-based electro-industrial duo minces no words on the opening track “Idiot” in its introductory sample “I’m gonna say one thing, fuck Trump.” And then on to choice sampling of 45s words and those of journalists cataloging some of his offenses against humanity. The menacing descending synth bass progression and minimalistic percussion puts the focus on the words. The rest of the album is less explicitly and specifically topical but it is the band’s most fully realized and focused effort yet. The pulsing pace and Fernando Altonaga’s distorted vocals draw you into meditations on the perils of creeping authoritarianism on “Tarnished.” The pastoral pace and deep melancholy of “Forever Haunted” resonates with the artfully despairing tones of the Closer period of Joy Division the way its circular guitar line and synth melody rides a wave of personal revelation and the contemplation of an unrelievedly bleak future. EhpH has long been one of the more interesting modern EBM bands but Infrared demonstrates that the group of Altonaga and Angelo Atencio have fully integrated those roots with a more contemporary post-punk and darkwave sensibility, thus never sounding stuck in the past.
Emerald Siam | Inventions of Ascension | self-released
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou | May Our Chambers Be Full | Sacred Bones Records
Emmy The Great | April / 月音 | Bella Union
Entrancer | Decline Vol. 4 | Multidim In constructing this latest installment in Entrancer’s Decline series Ryan McRyhew utilized Rob Hordijik’s DIY synth, the Benjolin, as well as the Make Noise Shared System. Though both are modular synthesis devices and visually look complex, McRyhew, in naming the equipment on the Bandcamp page, takes some of the technological mystery out of music making with synths and puts the emphasis on the creativity end. For twenty-seven minutes forty-four seconds of the single track of this album, “Decline XVI,” we travel with McRyhew through the sonic analog of the distorted ebb and flow of civilizational decay that we seem to be experiencing right now. Yet at the heart of the piece we hear a separation of more industrial sounds and those more organic like the inevitability of nature reasserting its primacy in our own consciousnesses and in the entire world.
Equine | Light Wa/orship | Noise Pelican
Eve Maret | Stars Aligned | White Supulchre Records
Eyebeams | It Means Trouble | Hot Congress
Eyedress | Let’s Skip to the Wedding | Lex Records
Eye of Nix | Ligeia | Scry Recordings Uplifting, psychedelic, blackened noise doom journey to a pagan underworld and back.
Facs | Void Moments | Trouble In Mind The post-punk equivalent of crime jazz’s subterranean menace.
Faim | Hollow Hope | Deathwish
Fearing | Shadow | Funeral Party
Fire-Toolz | Rainbow Bridge | Hausu Mountain Records
Flaming Lips | American Head | Warner Records Overflowing with compassion and musical salves for the pain and despair of the fractured American psyche.
French Kettle Station | Spirit Mode | Slagwerk
Future Islands | As Long As You Are | 4AD A soulfully soothing and transporting examination of the roots of one’s melancholic impulses.
Galleries | Resolve | self-released
Ganser | Just Look at That Sky | Felte Records Incandescent yet contemplative post-punk dense with conceptual content and poignant social commentary.
Gold Cage | Social Crutch | Felte Records
Hard to Be a Killer: A Tribute to Ralph Gean In an alternate universe Ralph Gean is a beloved rock and roll hero widely known for his brilliantly unique and off-beat songwriting. But the British Invasion derailed that trajectory and Gean instead has since become a bit of a legendary figure with a cult following in Denver music who has periodically played shows and championed by figures as politically disparate as Boyd Rice (who compiled a collection of Gean’s work in 2007) and Jello Biafra. That fandom is reflected on this sprawling tribute album assembled by Arlo White of Hypnotic Turtle Radio and bands like Deadbubbles and The Buckingham Squares. Every interpretation of Gean’s songs is a worthy listen and a fine showcase for his sheer breadth as an artist. Contributions from local, experimental eccentrics like Little Fyodor & Babushka, Claudzilla and The Babysitters lovingly capture Gean’s essential appeal as an artist with an unvarnished charm and humor. Eric Allen of The Apples in Stereo fame highlights the science fiction cowboy persona that Gean could convey while White’s band Diablo Montalban with the late, great eccentric DJ and Denver cultural figure Frank Bell give “Switzerland” a real dark exotica treatment reminiscent of weirder moments in Tom Waits’ catalog. A fascinating portrait of an important yet often overlooked artist.
H Lite | Green Youth Heattech | self-released Anton Kruger has been known for his inventive, hyperkinetic electronic and experimental music. But for this new EP he took a deep dive into contemplative realms of sound. Elegant, heavenly strings, luminous swells of tone and crystalline percussion embody the title of the song “Light Language.” The spacious sound design aspect of all the song’s on the album are reminiscent of Plaid in the enigmatic playfulness and the stretching consciousness to find inspiration through creative work. Every song brings forth a singular and imaginative portrait of tone, texture and rhythm that takes you on a journey to alien spaces that strike one as familiar and ultimately comforting like a dream. It is post-glitchcore IDM that dispenses with the anxiety in favor of a soothing spirit.
Houses of Heaven | Silent Places | Felte Records Gloomy street tribal dance anthems fortified with dark, minor chord melodies.
Human Impact | s/t | Ipecac Recordings
In The Company Of Serpents | Lux | self-released In the Company of Serpents has long been a band that has aimed to infuse its music with its interest in cinema, esoteric knowledge, literature, and with all of those come out of directi human experience, emotion and an attempt to make sense of life and imbue it with meaning. Lux is the fullest manifestation of those aims written into its most sonically dynamic set of songs to date. The crushing yet fluid heaviness of its sound is paired perfectly with elements of song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. “The Fool’s Journey” opens the record as a sort of map for the path set before us ending with the enigmatic “Prima Materia.” It’s a musically diverse and rich album that places In the Company of Serpents apart from a mere doom band and more in the realm of Swans’ and Neurosis’ own heavy explorations of the human psyche.
IDLES | Ultra Mono | Partisan Pointed yet loving politi-punk built on a hip-hop framework.
Insect Ark | The Vanishing | Profound Lore Records A seething and entrancing hybrid of a Junji Ito manga and industrial psychedelic doom.
Jarv Is | Beyond the Pale | Rough Trade Records
jOoHS UhP | Big Glasss | Records This record is so irreverent and self-deprecating it uses the swagger language of much of hip-hop to make statements that are the opposite of anything some other artists would brag about. The irony runs so deep even the elements of the music sounds like swagger. There is a song called “NoWeDon’tWannaMakeGoodMusic.WeTriedAndIt’sBoring.” The glitchy, industrial beats are so unconventional and eccentric you would never confuse this duo with anything resembling traditional hip-hop. It all has more in common with Renaldo & The Loaf and The Residents than even a weirdo like Kanye. Though often confrontational and obnoxious there’s no denying the relentless creativity of the production and glorious seeming lack of regard for how a song is supposed to sound.
Juliet Mission | Surren | self-released Surren is the third EP from Denver-based post-punk band Juliet Mission. As with previous releases the trio’s command of blending layers of atmosphere with strong rhythms and a contemplative melancholy is impressive. The short title track actually has three movements that flow from existential introspection to passages of dark realization to a mood of uneasy acceptance. All four songs in their brooding beauty demonstrate, as have the most recent albums from The Church, that you can write vital and engrossing rock songs from an adult point of view with elegance and grace, and without defaulting to an adolescent, and thus thematically limited, perspective.
Jupiter Sprites| Holographic | Jupiter Sprites Records
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith | The Mosaic of Transformation | Ghostly International
Killd By | Neotropical (tape reissue) | Noumenal Loom
King Krule | Man Alive! | Matador Like The Fall gone hip-hop chillout lounge post-bad trip horror movie dreaming.
Klara Lewis | Ingrid | Editions Mego Distorted melancholic cello drones like the glitched image memories of past life regression.
KoKo La | Curriculum Vitae | self-released Koko La has long already established herself as an artist of note as one of the MCs and producers in the hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $. Her soulful voice and presence often draws out subconscious emotions and gives them form in the music and performance. Curriculum Vitae finds Koko La exploring the experiences that have shaped her. Aided by Machete Mouth and Kitty Opinion$ on a couple of tracks, Koko La excels here with shining a light on those experiences that challenge you in various ways, while at the same time, giving you a better sense of self and the boundaries you must draw the border for people who might seek to dismiss you as a human or otherwise put you in your place. The trap beats and hushed atmospheres provide a fascinating listening experience, like you’re honoring the subconscious thoughts and feelings that affect your waking life by giving them an identifiable form that also allows you to comprehend, embrace and reconcile the wounded sides of yourself.
Lazarus Horse | Oh the Guilt! | self-released
Lithics | Tower of Age | Trouble In Mind Surreal, minimalist post-punk funk disintegrating into disorder like American democracy.
Lone Dancer | Temporal Smearing | Multidim
Mamaleek | Come and See | The Flenser
Many Blessings | Emanation Body | Translation Loss Records Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man renown returns to his ongoing noise soundscapes with the enigmatic and forbidding Many Blessings. In typical fashion this set of five pieces stretches beyond what McCarthy has done with the project in the past. Throughout this album there is not the harsh noise and deconstructed drones of some earlier work. Rather, it is layered collages of sound that give voice to the raw angst and anxieties that sit as a background hum of modern civilization eating away at our collective unconsciousness. The concluding track “Harm Signal” is like a symbol for the whole effort — a flow of sounds, a frequency, that we usually ignore but which causes untold destruction to our existence. These songs identify and give expression to energies and forces we’ve bypassed our whole lives but which are now impossible to ignore, like a sound art metaphor for the social and political forces that have come home to roost of late.
Marissa Nadler | Moons | self-released
Melkbelly | PITH | Carpark Records/Wax Nine
Memory Bell | Solace | self-released
Metz | Atlas Vending | Sub Pop
Midwife | Forever | The Flenser Madeline Johnston wrote Forever during one of the darkest times of the Denver DIY music and art community. Her community was scattered and challenged in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire with so many lives seeming to be on hold with no hint about when thatdespairing period would end. And the 2018 death of Colin Ward hit everyone whose lives he touched so deeply that it seems like the kind of hurt that will never fully heal. Johnston’s almost ghostly, delicate and vulnerable vocals and distorted, ethereal guitar seem to drift together in an effort to make some sense of those feelings with a nuance and sensitivity that always comes across as emerging directly from those places of acute pain and ache and loss, and honoring the need to just feel all of that whenever the need strikes and for however long into your life it lasts even if that is, indeed, forever. An especially touching and evocative tribute to a uniquely restless and creative yet sensitive and emotionally refined person in Colin Ward, Forever is a tender and heartbreaking, healing catharsis in the listen.
Mild Wild | Mild Wild, Vol. 1 | self-released Intensely personal, imaginatively lo-fi aural snapshots of daydreams and poetic observations.
Mint Field | Sentimiento Mundial | Felte Records Dream pop slow burner illuminating and warming the inner regions of the melancholic heart.
Moby | All Visible Objects | Mute Records Retro rave and chillout lounge songs mourning our collective loss, yearning for a hopeful future.
Molchat Doma | Monument | Sacred Bones Records Introspective, elegantly minimalistic, lo-fi, Belarusian gloom pop.
Mong Tong | Mystery | Guruguru Brain
Moodie Black | FUZZ | Fake Four
Moon Pussy | Hurt Wrist | The Ghost Is Clear Records Guitar riffs like swarms of angry insects sweeping through. Syncopated percussion like start- and- stop jackhammers. Bass lines like a half- ton coil being struck and emitting a menacing fluidity. Tortured vocals erupt with Brutalist, post-hardcore poetry. All of this helps to make this latest Moon Pussy record the perfect companion and reaction to a radically uncertain world seemingly in perpetual crisis mode and on the verge of we know not what. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint or Touch and Go will be thrilled with the band’s seemingly endless supply of inspired, aggressive and savage noise rock riffs and the ability to articulate directly from a place of desperation and outrage. “Fail Better” should be the theme song of these United States.
Mr. Bungle | The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo | Ipecac
Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away | El Marko Records
Mrs. Piss | Self-Surgery | Sargent House
Napalm Death | Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism | Century Media
New Standards Men | I Was A Spaceship | self-released
Night of the Living Shred | Return of the Night of the Living Shred | self-released The name of this album of course invokes the title of the 1985 horror comedy Return of the Living Dead. And the Colorado Springs-based metal group has taken the opportunity to give us an unusual and eclectic record that not only reflects its members’ broad taste in music but a deeply healthy sense of humor about the world and themselves. “Shred Shoppe Quartert” is an a cappella song in the style of a barbershop quartet. There are rap, punks, death metal, doom and grindcore songs. All of it performed with a charming exuberance even though the entire track list reads like something out of a heavy metal version of Mad Magazine. “We Get it, Mike Patton Is a Musical Genius” with screaming like a cover of something by Naked City with lyrics mocking that? That’s genius. Even though the record is largely a put on in one way or another, the fact that it has so much variety makes it eminently listenable.
No Age | Goons Be Gone | Drag City
Of Feather And Bone | Sulfuric Disintegration | Profound Lore Records
Oneohtrix Point Never | Magic Oneohtrix Point Never | Warp Records
Otzi | Storm | Artoffact Records Emotionally intense post-punk at the intersection of Sleater-Kinney and The Cure.
Perry Weissman 3 | Backlog | self-released
Plack Blague | Wear Your Body Out | self-released
Plague Garden | LEFT IN THE GRAVE | self-released
Pod Blotz | Transdimensional System | Dais Records
Pole | Fading | Mute Records
Primitive Man | Immersion | Relapse Records
Princess Dewclaw | Wild Sugar | Glasss Records On the Wild Sugar EP Princess Dewclaw has reinvented itself as a gritty, industrial darkwave band. That element was there on its 2017 album Walk of Shame (in fact the songs “Walk of Shame” and “Into the Words” have carried over in a significantly different form), but there seems more of an edge here. The vocals come more directly from channeling anxiety and pain into catharsis. Rather than acoustic drums the electronic and programmed drums sync more closely with the cutting synth work. The effect is like a caustic and politically charged take on a pop song with mainstream appeal. In that way it has an appeal similar to that of Alice Glass’s emotionally raw solo offerings.
Protomartyr | Ultimate Success Today | Domino Records Burning poems songs evoking a Jim Thompson-esque modern America in slashing/clashing post-punk.
Public Memory | Ripped Apparition | Felte Records If Tarkovksy and Jarmusch could team up to make a cyberpunk movie this would be the soundtrack.
Rafael Anton Irisarri | Peripeteia | Dais Records
Raspberry Bulbs | Before the Age of Mirrors | Relapse Records
Reverb And The Verse | RESONATE | self-released Since 1999 Reverb & The Verse has been developing and writing some of the most imaginative hip-hop out of Denver. The groupput their songwriting on this ninth record through a rigorous process of experimentation and weeding out the material deemed not quite there. Though steeped in classic MC wordplay, the beats and expertly crafted synth work and rhythms seem as informed by the likes of Minneapolis alternative hip-hop that came out of the 90s as it does 80s and 90s synth pop. All of these elements make for a sonically rich and diverse listen a bit like a cross between Clipse and Meat Beat Manifesto.
Riki | s/t | Dais Records Goth synth pop for skate rink parties in abandoned malls.
Run The Jewels | RTJ4 | Jewel Runners
Shabazz Palaces | The Don of Diamond Dreams | Sub Pop
Shitkid | 20/20 | PNKSLM An unlikely and fascinating hybrid of garage rock and soulful synth pop.
Shocker Mom | The Mediocre Depression | self-released
Sightless Pit | Grave of a Dog | Thrill Jockey Sublime and caustic, often claustrophobic, soundscapes of terrifying and transcendent beauty.
SNAD/Jackson Lee| Jargon/Syntax Error 12” EP | Deep Club Records
SPELLS | Stimulants & Sedatives | Snappy Little Numbers This record is raw even by SPELLS standards. But it’s perfect for 11 songs about the messiness of adulthood with lyrics that frankly go for the jugular. This isn’t new for this pop punk band and its anthemic choruses, but it’s always interesting to hear the contrast between the primal pop of the songwriting and incisive portraits of American life that dispense with the soul-destroying niceties. “We Can’t Relate” is a pointed declaration of the disconnect between the culture of the wealthy and the working class. “I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry” is something of an apology song for being how you have to be in a world that demands essentially unacceptable compromises. Imagine an amalgam of Blatz, Stiff Little Fingers and The Replacements and you have an idea of the sound, the vibe and the sentiments expressed throughout.
Spice | s/t | Dais Records
Sprain | As Lost Through Collision | The Flenser Colossal, sprawling, slowcore deep dives into the catharsis of anxiety and rootlessness.
Spunsugar | Drive-Through Chapel | Adrian Recordings
Squarepusher | Be Up a Hello | Warner Records
Stay Tuned | Remote Control | self-released Brilliantly sampling from American media and entertainment culture, both musically and thematically, Stay Tuned has produced not just a signature song with this arc of eleven tracks but a signature album. Dense with content each song uses the format of autobiography to comment on aspects of society like the shallowness of celebrity culture and the way we formulate our dreams and aspirations in terms and frameworks taken from preexisting constructs like television shows, movies, video games and other media — of course expressed through the corporate controlled channels we most often use to communicate with one another. But in free associating musical and other media references in a collage of sounds in the beat, Stay Tuned uses media tropes and collective myths and imagery to showcase how we can subvert the prevailing power relationships and the monopolistic paradigms of our time.
Stephen Malkmus | Traditional Techniques | Matador
Studded Left | Sidewalk Vitamins | Girlgang Music
Stūrī Zēvele | Labvakar | self-released An endearing indie pop manifestation of the essence of close and warm friendships.
Sumac | May You Be Held | Thrill Jockey
Suo and Data Rainbow | s/t | Multidim
SUUNS | FICTION EP | Joyful Noise
Syko Friend | Fontanelle | Post Present Medium
The Drood | Totally Comfortable | self-released
The High Water Marks | Ecstasy Rhymes | Minty Fresh
The Microphones | The Microphones In 2020 | P.W. Elverum & Sun
The Paranoyds | Pet Cemetery EP | Suicide Squeeze
The White Swan | Nocturnal Transmission | CockThermos
Through Flames | Through Flames | self-released Riveting, radical experiments in political poetry and sound design.
TI-83 | Demo | self-released
Time | These Songs Kill Fascists | Dirty Laboratory Hip-hop artist Chris “Time” Steele displays a true gift for fusing autobiography and lived experience with historical context and knowledge of political theory on this album. He’s always been a brilliant lyricist whose expert wordplay has seemingly effortlessly combined his sharp sense of humor with a wide ranging curiosity about the world and a growing body of knowledge of history, culture and politics. On These Songs Kill Fascists, Steele works with Daiba, Mick Jenkins, long time producer AwareNess, Giuseppe, Ron Miles, JXSHYB, Cat Soup and Psalm One to create a jazz-inflected story cycle commenting astutely on social issues now getting some focus. While a riveting listen purely as a well crafted album, These Songs Kill Fascists does not function as merely socially conscious entertainment, it seems to have been crafted as a form of praxis that challenges artist and listener in a dialectic of critical pedagogy that mutually encourages ongoing personal growth and social transformation.
Tobacco | Hot, Wet & Sassy | Ghostly International Bright, bombastic, noisy synths paired with darkly humorous musings disrupt the album’s aesthetic of nostalgic comfort sounds.
Torres | Silver Tongue | Merge Records
Uniform | Shame | Sacred Bones Records Scorching and thrillingly diverse industrial hardcore inspired by noir literature.
Usaisamonster | Amikwag | Yeggs Records
Vivian | The Warped Glimmer | self-released
Voight | s/t | self-released Maybe it’s Chase Dobson’s treatments and mixing and mastering after Adam Rojo and Nick Salmon wrote and recorded this album, but the self-titled Voight album is the closest the duo has come to sounding like it’s blurring the line between its rock and electronic aesthetics. Guitar chords burn and shimmer out, percussion flurries and traces out a minimalist beat and Salmon’s vocals float through the songs like a person who was once lost but is now rediscovering his ability to feel and to express those emotions with a coherent self-awareness. Every song has an expansive quality reminiscent of Clan of Xymox and The Twilight Sad. The tone of the album perfectly walks the line between urgency and introspection without ever compromising an underlying delicacy of spirit and emotional refinement.
Wayfarer | A Romance With Violence | Profound Lore Records
Wetware | Flail | Dais Recordings
White Rose Motor Oil | You Can’t Kill Ghosts | self-released
Windy & Carl | Allegiance and Conviction | Kranky
WL | ADHD | Beacon Sound
Wolf Parade | Thin Mind | Sub Pop
Yves Tumor | Heaven To A Tortured Mind | Warp Records Futuristic, effervescent, downtempo, synth pop-inflected, R&B informed non-binary funk.
What:Kyle Emerson w/Turvy Organ, Panther Martin and Crystal Seth When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. Tonight he shares the bill with stars of the local indie rock milieu in Turvy Organ and Panther Martin.
What:Stonefield w/Pink Fuzz, SSIIGGHH When: Friday, 2.21, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Amy, Hannah, Holly and Sarah Findlay are four sisters that formed the hard psychedelic rock band Stonefiled in 2006 in Darraweit Guim in Victoria, Australia. Its early offerings (for example Through the Clover) were in the realm of 70s boogie rock with hints of the psychedelia that would characterize their later songwriting. By the time of 2019’s Bent, the group hasn’t shed its infectious tunefulness but its overall sound is much heavier, brimming with expertly sculpted melodic fuzz and at times bordering on a fusion of Krautrock and early 2000s stoner rock. Fans of Stereolab, Trans Am and Hawkwind will find a lot to like about this latest incarnation of the band’s evolution.
What:Ezra Furman w/Kelley Stoltz When: Saturday, 2.22, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ezra Furman’s 2019 album Twelve Nudes is a lush yet somehow lo-fi collection of songs filled with raw emotion and experiences presented with a startling honesty couched in the sound of some 1960s girl group sound fused with fuzzy garage rock production. It’s a fascinating and bracing listen that gets past your filters before the impact of what you’re hearing hits you and the experience awakens you to the playful weightiness of Furman’s songwriting.
What:Shadows Tranquil, Emerald Siam, Midwife and Ophelia Drowning When: Saturday, 2.22, 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Dark, shoegaze-y post-punk band Shadows Tranquil performs this night with the brooding yet transcendent Emerald Siam, Midwife’s riveting, ethereal, tender, intimate soundscapes and Danish dungeon synth project Ophelia Drowning.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Kendra & The Bunnies brings an unconventional and disarming creativity and sensitivity to a folk psychedelia that seems out of place and out of time. When so many modern indie bands are still mining Laurel Canyon, Kendra & The Bunnies tapped slightly into the vibe of Northern California hippies and made it their own.
What:Cyclo-Sonic, Joy Subtraction and The Pollution When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: Cyclo-Sonic is comprised of veterans of Denver’s great second era of punk in the 80s with former members of The Fluid, The Frantix, Rok Tots and The Choosey Mothers. Which would mean not much if the band wasn’t any good but it turns out that the band’s leftfield reinterpretation of melodic proto-punk and garage is shockingly vital and compelling. Joy Subtraction came out of the more arty end of punk inspired by the likes of Alice Donut and Nomeansno. The Pollution is an unlikely merging of psychedelic prog and punk.
What:Shibui Denver #10: Fern Roberts and Red Wing Black Bird When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This edition of Shibui Denver will feature darkwave project Red Wing Black Bird and the latest band from former Emerald Siam and Light Travels Faster bassist Todd Spriggs, Fern Roberts.
What:Chastity Belt w/Nanami Ozone and Hugh F When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Chastity Belt has been on a great run of seeming to reinvent its aesthetic over the past two or three records. Its 2019 self-titled record has seemingly shed whatever influences informed its earlier work in favor of a more introspective, dream pop-esque, borderline post-punk aesthetic but rooted in a sophisticated expression of emotional complexity, the kind that only comes with processing loss whether personally, or of one’s place in the world or of one’s community or feeling lost in a world where things seem upended and your place in it seems tentative. Who can say is the reason for this change but it is the group’s finest offering to date in its ability to evoke feelings that a more straight ahead rock and roll songwriting style struggles to articulate.
What:Kendra & The Bunnies When: Sunday, 2.23, 4-6 p.m. Where: The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland 4-6 p.m.
What:Hannibal Buress w/Al Jackson and Tony Trimm When: Monday, 2.24, 10”:15 p.m. Where: Denver Comedy Works Why: This is a free pop up comedy event featuring Hannibal Buress whose sharp, surreal comedy takes aim at the ridiculousness of modern life and odd ideas we all take for granted. He has also appeared in film and numerous television shows including brilliant turns on the Eric Andre Show and Broad City. For tickets signup/rsvp @ www.hannibalburess.com also text 312-584-5839 for a chance at tickets.
Tuesday | February 25
What:American Nightmare w/Ceremony When: Tuesday, 2.25, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: American Nightmare is a legit hardcore band in the modern mold. Ceremony was right there with them, though having formed in 2006 during American Nightmare’s hiatus from 2004-2011. But around the time of Ceremony’s 2012 album Zoo its sound if not its raw, confrontational energy as a live band was changing. Hints of a shift from hardcore into something more experimental was all over that record and by the time of The L-Shaped Man from 2015, Ceremony was a post-punk band. Its latest album, In the Spirit World Now has expanded the use of synths in the band’s overall sound has morphed even further in the direction of dance-y darkwave like Devo if that band had somehow emerged following the post-punk revival of the late 90s and early 2000s.
What:Serpentfoot, Plastic Daggers and Fern Roberts When: Thursday, 2.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Serpentfoot is a Fort Collins-based psychedelic garage rock band kind of in the realm of boogie blues and fuzzy surf rock. Plastic Daggers could be considered a punk band because it has that arch and brass energy and attitude. But with a bass and drums with dual vocals its sound is refreshingly spare yet maximalist. This is the debut show from Fern Roberts, the new band of former Emerald Siam, Overcasters and Light Travels Faster bass player Todd Spriggs.
Friday | February 14
What:Chella and the Charm w/Jen Korte & The Loss, White Rose Motor Oil, Jackie Zubrzycki, Erika Ryann When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is an event called Sweethearts of the Rodeo and features some of Denver’s greatest female-led bands. Chella and the Charm may perform some of its songs more about relationships and love but it’s never simplistic, rote pop Americana platitudes. Chella’s incisive mind poetically peels apart the zeitgeist and presents the strugges and joys with a rare poetic insight. Jen Korte is one of the most versatile and hard-working musicians in Denver whose dynamic songwriting expands the genres and styles in which she chooses to operate.
What:Bianca Mikahn, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and Shockermom When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: A showcase for some of the best and most imaginative hip-hop artists in Denver at the moment. Bianca Mikahn’s noise experiments and soundscapes paired with her poetry is always a surprisingly compelling combination. R A R E B Y R D $ breaks hearts and heals minds with their dense beats and passionate vocals and wordplay. Pears and Perils is like if Bjork went more lushly downtempo and did hip-hop. Shockermom fuses emotionally vibrant jazz vocals with ambient hip-hop and one of the best things you’ll see all month.
What:Cheap Perfume, Flora De La Luna and The Yellnats When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Colorado Springs-based political punk band Cheap Perfume puts the fun into caustic send-ups of the misogynist aspects of American culture.
Saturday | February 15
What:Lloyd Cole When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Why: Lloyd Cole came to prominence in the 80s as the lead singer of the great jangle pop band The Commotions. But by the turn of the decade he had gone solo but still writing thought-provoking songs though in a slightly different style suitable to his poetic imagination. In that way he followed a similar path to Robyn Hitchcock when he left The Soft Boys. One of the criminally underknown songwriting greats of our era. Currently touring following the 2019 release of his latest album Guesswork.
What:The New Pornographers w/Diane Coffee When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: There’s always been something orchestral to The New Pornographers’ spacious pop songs. Like something assembled in a studio in the late 60s with Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks but with a modern set of musical ideas and instincts. Its 2019 album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights also highlights how despite the grandeur of its creative vision its songs manage to seem like glimpses into intimate moments of vulnerable, existential contemplation.
What:Mattiel w/Calvin Love When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Mattiel has a knack for taking surreal everyday situations and turn them into synth pop epics. Her 2019 album Satis Factory does some sonic time traveling between early 60s girl group and Connie Frances-esque melodies, late 70s New Wave pop wiry energy and a contemporary ironic tone. But her delivery doesn’t feel jaded or detached, just playing with the songwriting format to comment on culture and society in a way that uses nostalgic elements to speak of the present in the past tense.
What:Pictureplane w/ DEBR4H and Entrancer When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Former Denverite Pictureplane jokingly coined the term “witch house” around a decade ago. But his own music transcends such easy categorization as a mélange of hip-hop, glitch pop and noise.
What:Bernie Sanders Rally When: Sunday, 2.16, 4 p.m. Where: Colorado Convention Center Why: For anyone what wants to go and see the current frontrunner in the primaries for the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate for the office of President of the United States.
What:Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Lorelai K and Faces Under the Mirror When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party if keeping the torch alive for darkwave in Dallas at its base of operations Funeral Home before moving to Los Angeles this fall. The band’s 2019 album MARTYR is reminiscent of a melding of Clan of Xymox, Xmal Deutschland and the more glam end of of Concrete Blonde.
What:Pinegrove w/Whitney Ballen When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Pinegrove is currently touring in support of its latest album Marigold. The record is its most focused effort to date conveying a sense of space and simplicity with interlocking, textured tones lending the songs a complexity not immediately obvious. The record comes out in the wake of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall’s undergoing therapy and other work following a 2017 allegation of sexual coercion as outlined in a 2018 article on Pitchfork by Jenn Pelly. If turmoil produces better art, perhaps Hall’s efforts at becoming a better person have lead to a good deal of creative clarity as well.
Tuesday | February 18
What:The Jungle Giants w/Little Image When: Tuesday, 2.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Jungle Giants from Brisbane, Australia combine an R&B and soul sensibility into its jaunty pop songs. Its music videos suggest an aesthetic informed by independent film and Kurt Vonnegut. Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Quiet Ferocity, in 2019 and 2020 it released singles “Heavy Hearted” and “Sending Me Ur Loving” respectively so on this tour expect to hear new material before it appears on the band’s next record.
What:Colorado Crew Denvoid Pt. 2 book release When: Friday, 12.20, 6-8:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This event will present the follow up to Bob Rob Medina’s 2015 book Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks which documented the Denver punk and underground music scene from 1982-1987. This volume, Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 covers the years 1988-1996 in which punk changed, the major current strands of music in Denver emerged into strong, coherent form and the early phase of artist run DIY spaces developed into the form we know now.
What:Emerald Siam w/Echo Beds and Clusterfux When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The musical accompaniment to Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 mentioned above with bands whose members were part of that late 80s through mid-90s scene.
What:Grimy (Bryan Wendzel) and Cabron (Bob Rob Medina) When: Saturday, 12.21, 1 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Early afternoon show connected to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 featuring death-grind band Grimy and author Bob Rob Medina’s San Diego-based punk outfit Cabron playing a rare show (as well as another later this night).
What:The Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup Presents: Synth Patrol When: Saturday, 12.21, 1-3 p.m. Where: Little Horse Books & Vintage Why: Early afternoon concert featuring live vinyl sampling from Aefonic (Brian Horsfield), Cold Future (Victor John), monoscene (Christoph Scholtes) and Newecho (Mark Mosher).
What:Jon Snodgrass and Jux County When: Saturday, 12.21, 5-8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Another show connected to the release of Bob Rob Medina’s book Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 including performances from longtime punk stalwart Jon Snodgrass and Jux County, one of the early cowpunk/alt-country bands from the mid-80s and who still occasionally play shows.
What:FOUR! (reunion), Cyclo-Sonic, Mind Rider (Sonny Kay), Cabron When: Saturday, 12.21, 9 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: The final event related to the release of Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 with performances from bands including people featured in the book with pop-punk legends FOUR!, garage punk band Cyclo-Sonic which includes members of The Fluid, Choosey Mothers and Rok Tots, Sonny Kay (Savalas, Angel Hair, The VSS) and Bob Rob Medina (Savalas, Cabron). Rumor has it Medina and Kay will perform a Savalas song.
What:Causer, Equine, Tears to Li6ht When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m. Where: Glitter City Why: Equine is an avant-garde guitar drone solo project of Kevin Richards. Causer is one of the most compelling and inventive newcomers to Denver’s noise scene with their mix of confrontational performance art and noise collage. Tears to Li6ht is a melodic ambient/experimental pop project.
What:Umbras Animas w/Lady of Sorrows, John Gross, Mismo and Pythian Whispers When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Umbras Animas is bringing its latest drone and shadow pupper theater performance to Rhinoceropolis along with one of the Godfathers of Denver noise John Gross, operatic darkwave synth pop project Lady of Sorrows and soundtrack/soundscape projects Mismo and Pythian Whispers (full disclosure, Queen City Sounds and Art writer Tom Murphy’s band).
What:Frankie Cosmos w/Stephen Steinbrink and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The latest Frankie Cosmos album is called Close It Quietly (out on Sub Pop) which is a title reflecting the tender, sensitive and utterly sincere quality of Greta Kline’s songwriting and psychologically insightful lyrics. Stephen Steinbrink’s golden voice and talent for inventive soundscapes in his pop songs has been brewing for more than a decade while he toured regularly in the DIY world. His 2018 album Utopia Teased is a pinnacle of his recorded output with a diverse array of moods and textures.
What:Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Kyle Emerson’s new album Only Coming Down is a thoughtful collection of songs written while the songwriter was splitting his time between his adopted home of Denver and Los Angeles. Emerson is from norther Ohio but moved to Denver in his late teens/early 20s where he fell in with an up and coming psychedelic pop band Plum which made waves before moving to the City of Angels and, as is often the cliché, broke up shortly thereafter. Since then Emerson moved back to the Mile High City where he established himself as a solo artist with the release of his sophisticated and introspective, folk inflected pop album Dorothy Alice. For this set of shows he’s opening for bluesy indie rock band Houndmouth from Indiana.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 1 When: Friday, 11.8, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since Denver Noise Fest isn’t happening this year, Johnathan Cash of Sunk Cost is picking up that slack again with the biggest noise festival in Colorado across two nights at Rhinoceropolis bringing together a wide range of artists from Colorado and well beyond. Go expecting the broad spectrum of noise from the presumed harsh noise, to prepared environment soundscaping, ambient, beat-driven industrial drone, noisy post-punk, glitch, weirdo techno, post-metal, organic sound composition, sound collage, field recording processing and more. Honestly, greater diversity here in purely sonic terms than any other festival in Colorado since the last Ultra Metal. See the schedule below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – J. Westerman
6pm – Blarney Mumble
6:20pm – Harms
6:40pm – Kid Mask
7pm – Dragging
7:20pm – Voight
7:40pm – Pat Hopewell
8pm – Genital Stigmata
8:20pm – Culled
8:40pm – John Ingram
9pm – Sounding
9:20pm – Ritual Chair
9:40pm – Developer
10pm – Kiran Arora
10:20pm – Xome
10:40pm – Conscious Summary
11pm – Baby Daddy
11:20pm – PCRV
11:40pm – Scathing
12am – VX Bliss
12:20am – GNO
12:40am – FILTH
1am – H Lite x Techno Allah
1:20am – Clutch Plague
1:40am – J. Hamilton Isaacs
What:Clan of Xymox w/The Bellweather Syndicate and The Siren Project When: Friday, 11.8, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox is a Dutch post-punk band that influenced a generation of second wave Goth bands with its imaginative and bracing sounds and imagery. Adam Wingard featured Xymox tracks in his 2014 action thriller The Guest.
What:Ultra Metal 2 Night 2 When: Saturday, 11.9, 5 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above regarding Ultra Metal. Schedule for night 2 below.
5pm – doors open
5:40pm – ilind
6pm – French Kettle Station
6:20pm – Goo Age
6:40pm – Earth Control Pill
7pm – Pet Sounds
7:20pm – Rush Falknor
7:40pm – Illicit Relationship
8pm – Sunk Cost
8:20pm – A Fail Association
8:40pm – Primordial Wound
9pm – T.E.F.
9:20pm – Sects
9:40pm – Jackson Pratt
10pm – Sissisters
10:20pm – Blind Date
10:40pm – Circuit Wound
11pm – Ancient, INC.
11:20pm – Tralphaz
11:40pm – Pedestrian Deposit
12am – Dromez
12:20am – Purism
12:40am – Blank Hellscape
1am – Total Mom
1:20am – Many Blessings
1:40am – Page 27
What:Necropanther w/Methane, Incarnit, Draghoria When: Saturday, 11.9, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death/thrash metal band Necropanther from Denver is celebrating the release of its latest album The Doomed City although it has those great, distorted vocals that you’d expect from a black metal outfit there’s always been something tuneful and catchy about the band’s output.
What:Pile w/Slow Code and Moon Pussy When: Sunday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Pile formed in 2007, the same year as the Canadian band Women, and has exerted a similarly strong influence on underground guitar rock by going off the map of conventional structure, dynamics and tone. Its new album Green and Gray has all of its signature contorted and noisy angularity. Opening is Denver noise rock Moon Pussy whose Big Black-esque bluster is a revelation.
What:Vincent Comparetto Going Away Party When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Vincent Comparetto has been calling Denver home for over 20 years and is now moving to New York City. He got involved in the skating community in the 90s and discovered the local world’s punk and post-punk communities and has been avidly documenting the music scene and the cityscape for years as can be found in his ‘zines Follow Focus, particulary #2 in which he shared several of his shots of shows and the arts world in Denver. Here’s a public chance to say farewell to one of local cultures most cordial and thoughtful preservers of what has been and advocates for what is going on.
What:Hippo Campus w/The Greeting Committee When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Hippo Campus released two albums in 2019 as Demos I and Demos II. While they sound a bit like the titles suggest and recorded between 2017 and 2018, the spare, raw quality of the recordings actually serve to highlight the band’s songwriting further. Its 2018 album Bambi showcased its knack for expertly produced pop songs while the new batch of material is almost the polar opposite like the experiments Magnetic Fields have engaged in over the years with its creative and varied use of technology in songwriting and processing sounds. But whatever its approach, Hippo Campus has proven its mastery of dynamics and tone.
What:The Aquabats When: Monday, 11.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: It’s odd to think that The Aquabats has been around for over twenty-five years now. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, the quintet’s mixture of ska, punk and pop is as surreal as it is playful. Its singer The MC Bat Commander (aka Christian Jacobs) is better known for his involvement with the kids’ show Yo Gabba Gabba! these days but The Aquabats was a good natured send-up of the Orange County punk scene as the opposite of a macho, violent band. Instead The Aquabats have assumed the personae of super heroes and its multi-media presentation through its own TV shows and sillymusic videos has allowed the band to transcend not just genre appeal but appeal beyond the realm of punk and ska, which the group has long since left behind in favor of greater musical diversity in its songwriting. Go expecting more than just a musical performance, expect the full integration of that with theater and comedy routines and special guest performers along with its usual incorporation of the audience into the proceedings as well.
What:Elephant Stone w/Frankie and the Witch Fingers and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Elephant Stone’s psychedelic pop songs have weathered the glut of wannabe psychedelic rock of the past several years by going beyond the tropes and creating transcendent melodies incorporating traditional Indian musical styles and methods for a sound that seems to drift in from some brighter realm than our own. Frankie and the Witch Fingers is a little more traditionally garage psyche but the sheer momentum of its performances elevates it beyond the languid pace and laid back style we’ve come to expect all while maintaining a delicacy of feeling. Emerald Siam from Denver has some of that psychedelic garage rock in its musical DNA but is more like a moody, dark, post-punk band that discovered that musical catharsis comes from overcoming one’s personal momentum rather than sinking deeper into it.
What:FKA Twigs When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: FKA Twigs brilliantly fuses downtempo with experimental electronic music. Her new album Magdalene is basically an environmental noise record with elements of R&B and soul in a pop format in the foreground.
What:Big Freedia w/Low Cut Connie When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Big Freedia’s “sissy bounce” is like some hip-hop performance art spell-casting that is disorienting yet utterly riveting.
What: At the Heart of the World w/Lowfaith and Polyurethane When: Tuesday, 11.12, 7 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis
Wednesday | November 13
What:The Coathangers w/Control Top and Rocket Dust When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The Coathangers have evolved a lot since the incendiary and thrilling chaos of their earlier punk rock without losing any of that raw power. Now touring for The Devil You Know, The Coathangers have completely integrated its instinct for tearing down convention with sharply focused songwriting.
What:Sun Seeker w/Duncan Fellows When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Duncan Fellows from Austin unexpectedly makes a blend of Americana, psychedelic pop and 2000s indie rock work through creative layering of instrumentation and vocals giving its songs great dynamic range and an element of unpredictability. There’s a lot of imitation in music at the moment and while Duncan Fellows may not strike some as incredibly original, give them a good listen and it becomes obvious they’re at least following their musical instincts where the mood flows rather than where pre-existing style suggests. In that way the group is a bit like Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra without sounding like either. Its use of synths as a full compositional element sets it apart from most of its peers as well as heard put to full effect on the group’s latest release the Eyelids Shut EP.
What:Sheer Mag w/Tweens and The Born Readies When: Thursday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Sheer Mag sounds like a band that grew up listening mostly to Thin Lizzy, 70s power pop and AC/DC but invented punk rock without ever having heard it. It’s new record A Distant Call finds the band having refined some of its raw power without blunting it.
Friday | September 13
What:Soulless Maneater, Sweetness Itself, Sad Bug When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Sad Bug is sort of a neo-emo pop punk band. Sweetness Itself might come off as a bit of a fuzzy psychedelic band but sometimes Cyrena Rosati’s guitar work verves into bendy waves akin to something you might hear from My Bloody Valentine via No Joy. Which is to say gloriously loud and noisy but also tied to tight songwriting and accessible hooks. Soulless Maneater is what happens when you give doom metal more of an abrasive edge and more pointed and political lyrics aimed at where a critical eye belongs.
What:Summer Cannibals w/Mr. Atomic and Knuckle Pups When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Summer Cannibals have for the past seven years charted a path out of the neo-garage rock that dominated American underground rock for several years. Its own songwriting more fluid and dynamic than just the adolescent release and raw, youthful enthusiasm that was both what was exciting but ultimately limiting and tiresome about the new garage bands. Summer Cannibals didn’t just have a healthy sense of humor but the band also seemed to take seriously its songcraft but without overthinking it. Its new album, 2019’s Can’t Tell Me No is Summer Cannibals in high form with its contrast of melodic vocals, grit, attitude and confessional lyrics.
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Friday, 09.13, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: It shouldn’t work and maybe for some it doesn’t, but Brooklyn’s Dub Trio took inspiration from King Tubby and applied the principles of dub to heavier music in terms of shaping sound, production and signal processing. Surface level, the group comes across like an arty doom band and it has served as part of the backing band for Mike Patton on the 2006 Peeping Tom tour and on its new album The Shape of Jazz to Come, it worked with Buzz Osborne of Melvins fame. But the bass is sculpted in a way to sync up with the sampled and manipulated sounds fed back into the mix for a disorienting yet hypnotic effect. Sure, opening for a pretty famous nü metal band but worth going to see for their set alone.
Saturday | September 14
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: For Dub Trio see above on 9.14.
What:Test Dept w/Acidbat, eHpH and DJ Dave Vendetta When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Antero Hall (formerly Eck’s Saloon) Why: Test Dept is indeed the legendary early industrial band from London touring through Denver before it performs at the Cold Waves festival in Chicago. Percussion heavy, full, mind-altering assault to the senses in the vein of those early industrial groups of the 80s. Different from but definitely for fans of Einstürzende Neubauten and Crash Worship.
What:Total Trash, Vampire Squids From Hell, Lords of Howling When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: September’s Get Your Ears Swoll will include “doom surf” band Vampire Squids From Hell, avant-folk Lords of Howling and psychedelic indie rock phenoms Total Trash.
What:Strand of Oaks w/Apex Manor When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter has had a prolific career writing delicate and thoughtful, introspective, folk-inflected pop songs. One might call it pastoral but by candlelight. There’s an intimacy to Showalter’s songwriting that sets it apart from some other songwriters exploring similar sonic territory. That and Showalter’s attention to the rhythm side of the music so that all parts compliment each other well. His new album, 2019’s Eraserland, was never supposed to happen until some friends convinced him to get back into the studio to write the record and it’s a particularly touching testament to rediscovering the strength to continue on and do what you love even if it feels to you at the time pointless and hopeless. It’s a personal reinvention with music that feels gently reinvigorating as well.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase, Smash it Back Edition: Sputnik Slovenia, Little Fyodor & Babushka and The Hinckleys – DJ Andy Z When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This edition of the KGNU Quaterly showcase features Jim Yelnick of hardcore band Pitch Invasion playing his solo material and probably treating you to some unusual humor. And of course the great, avant-garde punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka will be putting in a, these days, rare appearance and demonstrate how punk can push the boundaries of the songwriting and subject matter while writing incredibly catchy music. There is no fashion victim type stuff with Fyodor because he already looks like an accountant who burned down his office and started a cable access show about underground culture and the impending collapse of civilization.
What:Of Monsters and Men w/Lower Dens When: Monday, 09.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men are currently touring in support of its 2019 album Fever Dream and will provide the expansive, emotional, melodic songs made for the larger club setting. Opening the show is experimental dream pop band Lower Dens. The group’s earlier albums were in the realm of dub-inflected post-punk but its newer material, particularly on its new record The Competition, combines its lush melodies with an almost disco flavored adult contemporary sound. Like Jana Hunter and company mined 80s pop music and removed the cheese but kept the solid songwriting and production.
What:Roselit Bone, High Plains Honky and Erika Ryann When: Monday, 09.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Roselit Bone is like a honky tonk, cow boy high desert Gun Club and visually reminiscent of the same. Intense live performances and riveting storytelling. Its new album Crisis Actor is a storybook of American skullduggery, misdeeds and a celebration of life.
Tuesday | September 17
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: GRLwood from Louisville, Kentucky sound like an emotionally nuanced math-y emo band on its 2018 album Daddy. Though there is a smoldering sensibility to the vocals the band is able to reconcile powerful feelings with actually feeling its hurt and transforming that into a melancholic catharsis that bursts forth in fiery riffs and introspective passages. And it will contrast well with Man Man, the psychedelic art rock band formerly form Philadelphia who made it “indie big” in the 2000s with its ambitious albums and theatrical and bombastic live shows.
What:Hatchie w/Orchin and Slow Caves When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hatchie’s 2019 debut full length Keepsake is the rare dream pop offering of late with a keen ear for the low end to give the music some weightiness and drive. Maybe there’s no surprise there since Harriet Pilbeam has played bass and guitar in her musical career up to now and the songwriting on Keepsake reflects an appreciation for a broad spectrum of how the music can stimulate your emotions. It’s breezy in dynamic and Pilbeam’s vocals warmly melodic but the songs always seem to be reaching forward to draw you in.
What:Torche w/Pinkish Black and Green Druid When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torche formed in 2004 in Miami and came out of the heavy music underground of the 90s when Steve Brooks and former member Juan Montoya were members of doom/sludge legends Floor. Torche was a different animal and as the band has developed over the years it is difficult to really call it a sludge or doom band, especially with its 2019 album Admission with its sometimes shimmery and gritty melodies, expansive vocal dynamic and sinuous rhythms. The fuzzy drones seem to have more in common with the likes of Swervedriver than what you’re likely to hear on a doom record and yet often enough Torche employs a colossally blunt riff but then sends it spiralling in different trajectories giving the songs a sound like what might happen if a psychedelic metal band left behind its limiting tropes and explored the inherent possibilities of its sound palette.
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: See above on 9/17 for Man Man and GRLwood.
What:Old Time Relijun w/Shooda Shook It and Moon Pussy When: Thursday, 05.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Colliding Captain Beefheart-esque outsider atonality with non-western elements of rhythm, Old Time Relijun’s shamanistic, Sun City Girls-esque jazz was unlike much of anything else going on when it launched in the late 90s. Now back together after nearly a decade hiatus, OTR is touring widely in the wake of the release of its 2019 album See Now and Know. Also on the bill for the night is Tucson-based No Wave funk-esque quartet Shooda Shook It and Denver’s confrontational, deconstructionist noise rock stars Moon Pussy.
What:An Evening With Johnny Marr When: Thursday, 05.16, 7/8:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Johnny Marr is the iconic guitarist from post-punk legends The Smiths. His solo career is also full of worthwhile material in which he gets to show off his gift for complex yet seemingly simple melodies. Live, Marr performs material from across his career and anyone that has seen him might even say the unlikely and point out that his vocals for classic Smiths material are at least as good as Morrissey’s. As the title of the show suggests, an entire evening of Marr’s music and selections from catalog of The Smiths and some choice covers.
What:Glissline When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Ross-Broadway library Why: Tommy Metz has been making beautiful and affecting ambient/IDM music for over a decade. With Glissline he pushes the production methods further than ever while making very experimental music so accessible it always takes you by surprise.
What:John Catdog and Sobremarcha Musicgroup When: Thursday, 05.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: John Catdog’s boundary pushing mix of what might be described as abstract industrial dance music and noise informed by radical politics. At other times more downtempo and chill but always interesting. Sobremarcha Musicgroup is a project of Amber Gomez, a formerly Chicago-based DJ and producer whose bright, gently urgent tracks will definitely fill out the room and beyond this night.
What:Jenny Lewis On the Line Tour 2019 w/Karl Blau When: Thursday, 05.16, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why:On The Line is Jenny Lewis’ latest record and it is the exquisitely composed, lush pop that Lewis has made so well for years with her usual literary flair. But in promoting the record, Lewis might have struck some people as very unvarnished and disarmingly off-the-cuff. But we kind of need that from more artists these days especially those whose art gives one the impression of their embracing classic forms of art and established ways. Jenny Lewis has always been a bit subversive and a little different in the humor department, one might say a secret weirdo who operates in the open, which is why her creative output remains worthwhile because all the weirdness, the eccentricity is there amid the expertise in presenting a conventional front.
Friday | May 17
What:Nitzer Ebb w/Liebknecht and DJ n810 When: Friday, 05.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: With the stridently urgent rhythms and confrontational feel of its 1987 album That Total Age, Nitzer Ebb, like Front 242 and D.A.F., established a template for much later EBM with any bite and vitality.
What:No Gossip in Braille release show w/Emerald Siam and Weathered Statues When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: No Gossip in Braille is releasing its debut effort Bend Toward Perfect Light on Cercle Social Records at this show. The post-punk duo of Keith Curts of Echo Beds and formerly of Ghost Orchids and Subpoena The Past and Bryan S. Becker formerly of experimental guitar band Annik has crafted a brooding post-punk album of refined emotional expression and lush atmospheres driven by gently urgent electronic percussion. Vocally it’s a bit of a different direction for Curts than most people who have seen his bands in the past two decades are used to as rather than the screaming and highly processed sounds in Echo Beds or Glass Hits, Curts hits some truly melancholic and introspective depths to match the elegant and ethereal guitar work.
What:Duncan Barlow and Natalie Rogers reading When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Duncan Barlow is known to many for his time in hardcore and post-hardcore bands (Endpoint, Guilt, By the Grace of God) from Louisville, Kentucky as well as punk and Americana bands from Denver (D. Biddle, Lion Sized). But lately he’s been a professor living in Vermillion, South Dakota teaching at the University of South Dakota and continuing to write literary fiction including his 2019 novel A Dog Between Us. Natalie Rogers is a writer whose diverse work background (911 dispatcher, adult caretaker, teacher etc.) informs her own works of fiction. Both will read selections from their body of work.
What:Calpurnia w/Slow Caves When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Calpurnia’s fuzzy indie rock sounds a bit like a throwback to 70s power/bubblegum pop like The Sweet or The Raspberries though likely filtered through the lens of latter day practitioners of related sounds like Twin Peaks and The Strokes. The band is really young with singer and guitarist Finn Wolfhard turning 17 in December so the band will grow beyond its most obvious current influences. Tracks like “Greyhound,” though, more than hint at promising uses of sound ahead.
What:Fem Fest 2019: 2 Kayla Marque, 3 RAREBYRD$, 4 The Milk Blossoms, 5 YaSi When: Saturday, 05.18, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Denver Why: The 2019 edition of Fem Fest is a celebration of female identified artists and musicians with workshops, a bazaar, DJs, a photo book and live music throughout the course of the event. Of course attendance is open to people of all ages and genders. The numbers listed above before the band/artist is the time slot in the afternoon/evening you can expect to catch their set. Experimental hip-hop and whatever kind of pop one might like to use to describe The Milk Blossoms. But no matter who you choose to check out there are only some of Denver’s greatest on the festival.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase: Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Florea (solo), Ghost Tapes and The Guest List When: Saturday, 05.18, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: All the local bands on this bill would be worth going to see alone. But the surprise announcement of a performance from Tav Falco’s Panther Burns put the show at the top of our list for this week. The group started in Memphis and its membership included the likes of founding member Alex Chilton of Big Star who performed and toured with the band until 1984 including the well-known 1979 television appearance on Marge Thasher’s Strait Talk program. The host attempts to skewer the band’s performance but Falco deftly turns her criticisms into a chance to make a case for music that truly is rock and roll and not an attempt at following established formula. Falco’s eccentric and brilliant, arty, psychedelic blues punk has exerted a strong infuence on the likes of Jon Spencer, The Oblivians, Spacemen 3, Primal Scream and The Gories. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2018 album of inspired covers (and some originals) ranging 80 years of American music: Cabaret of Daggers. Don’t sleep on this one because a band as legendary and as unique as Tav Falco’s Panther Burns rarely makes an appearance in Denver much less at a small club like Lion’s Lair.
What:Xiu Xiu w/Elyria Sequence When: Monday, 05.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Since 2012’s Always, Xiu Xiu’s albums have become darker and like collections of harrowing stories commenting on the horrors of society. None more so than 2019’s Girl with Basket of Fruit. It could have had its own season of the now canceled SyFy series Channel Zero. There is the experimental folk side of Xiu Xiu that was compelling and thrillingly emotionally raw, a quality that Jamie Stewart developed further in the context of the synth-driven exorcisms of his most recent records. Reminiscent of Suicide in both evocation of stark psychological spaces and richness of tone and mood, Xiu Xiu now embodies what many darkwave bands would like to be but are not yet there.
What:Florence + The Machine: The High as Hope Tour 2019 w/Christine and the Queens When: Monday, 05.20, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Was it an accident that Florence + The Machine are playing Red Rocks the night after the airing of the final episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday, May 19? Probably. But it’s more interesting to speculate that is no coincidence for a band that wrote the chilling ballad “Jenny of Oldstones” based on the quasi-mythical wife of Duncan Targaryen, ancient ancestor of Daenerys, of course. Either way, Florence + The Machine’s music has a deserved reputation for its uplifting and diverse mix of pop styles and expansive moods buoyed by Florence Welch’s refined yet soulful vocals. Opening the show is Christine and the Queens, or, simply, Chris, the performance moniker of Héloïse Adelaide Letissier who has used the project and even the name of the project to experiment with adopting a persona and to discuss in song and performance the nature of identity itself. A heady proposition, perhaps, but it has been very much a part of Letissier’s push to writing pop music that challenges assumptions while somehow remaining incredibly accessible. Fans of David Byrne and Laurie Anderson will appreciate Letissier’s almost free association yet coherent compositional style, especially as manifested on her 2018 album Chris, and the sheer playfulness of her songs and stage persona.
What:The Twilight Sad w/Kathryn Joseph When: Tuesday, 05.21, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Being a cult band can be rough going knowing that you’re doing something special and different, pushing music in a similar vein forward by taking chances and not following trends. Well, to some extent anyway, that has paid off for Scotland’s The Twilight Sad. Post-punk and shoegaze has been a crowded field for the past two decades especially lately when it seems everyone that suddenly realized they liked The Cure and dark post-punk started a band. But The Twilight Sad’s willingness to utilize raw noise and sing with urgency instead of with an affectless, almost disengaged style has always seemed vital and reminiscent of bands like The Comsat Angels and The Sound more than some other bands who might claim similar influences. The group nearly called it quits half a decade ago but it started garnering unexpected attention for its then new album, 2014’s Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, as well as an opening slot on tour with The Cure where the band distinguished itself well. In 2019 the group released its latest album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time and reaffirming itself as a band that doesn’t try to sugarcoat or downplay life’s down sides in its songwriting while providing an excellent soundtrack to work through those times. That part of what informed the writing of the record was tapping into some old Brian Eno songs using Eno’s Oblique Strategy cards as an impetus to writing songs that would be fun to play live sets the new record apart from much of modern rock music by trusting in processes outside of conscious thought to inject creativity into your art.
What:Radkey w/One Flew West and And the Black Feathers When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Radkey gets lumped in with punk and, oddly, proto-punk probably because its sound is crunchy, dynamic rock music with great, melodic vocal harmonies. But it is a rock and roll band comprised of three brothers whose songwriting owes no stylistic debt to any particular movement or artist. Maybe you could say its reminiscent of Thin Lizzy combined with a good, modern pop punk band. Wherever Radkey is coming from with its music, its high energy live shows are always entertaining. In 2019 the group released its latest album, No Strange Cats…P.A.W where it switches the pace of the songs up more than ever expanding its already respectable dynamic range.
What:The Faint w/Choir Boy, Closeness and boyhollow When: Wednesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Before it became fairly trendy in the late 2000s and 2010s, The Faint was drawing upon 80s synth pop and mixing it with emotionally-charged post-punk. The band’s second proper album Blank-Wave Arcade from 1998 was a bit of an anomaly somehow reminiscent of Falco, Duran Duran, The VSS and the more interesting 90s emo. By the time of 2001’s Danse Macabre the group had refined to perfection a fusion of electronic and post-punk without sounding like much of anyone else. Eighteen years later The Faint is pushing itself in interesting directions as evidenced by the release of its new album Egowerk. The songwriting straddles the world of electronic dance music and post-punk and with lush production and Todd Fink’s always expressive and melodious vocals swimming in atmospheric grandeur. It is the band’s least traditionally rock sounding record and chances are most suited to the group’s visually dynamic light show.
Who:Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.
Who:Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.
Friday | December 28, 2018
Who:Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.
Who:Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.
Saturday | December 29, 2018
Who:Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.
Who:Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.
Who:Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.
Who:Itchy-O w/PPL MVR When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.
Sunday | December 30, 2018
Who:Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.
Who:Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.
Who:The Beach Boys When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.
Who:Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.
Who:cindygod EP release When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.
Monday | December 31, 2018
Who:Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.
Who:Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.
Who:Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?
Who:Holy Wave w/Pale Sun When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Holy Wave is a band from Austin, Texas that weaves together a kind of motorik beat driven, Krautrock wall of sound mixed with the sort of folk and rock and roll that produced the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. So sort of garage psych but more imaginative and with more nuanced, layered songwriting. With the band’s most recent album Adult Fear, it’s drifted in a more 60s futurist pop direction akin to Pink Floyd gone French pop akin to a psych garage version of Stereolab. Pale Sun’s dense washes of mind-bending tones and hypnotic rhythms will be a good match as its own atmospheric rock has some resonance with weirdo electronic music.
Who:Dia De Muertos Celebration with Altas, Plume Varia, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Church Fire When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Four of Denver’s best bands on one bill for this celebration of Dia De Muertos. Altas’s instrumental rock music conjures the visual element for you in your mind with its dynamic compositions and keen sense of texture and rhythm. Plume Varia’s downtempo dream pop is not something you get to see much live these days—an effective and evocative blend of R&B, synthpop and darkwave. Vic N’ The Narwhals found a way to keep surf rock vital and not another victim of genre oversaturation. Church Fire has long been the band to embody an instinct for great pop hooks, emotionally electrifying and confrontational performances, raw chaos and noise and making elements that aren’t often in one place work in a way that’s accessible and powerful. Church Fire will release an album at the end of the year and change up its direction so you may see hints of that in its upcoming live shows.
Who:The Goon Sax w/Teeth of the Hydra and Chromadrift When: Thursday, 11.1, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Brisbane, Australia’s The Goon Sax harnessed the strong melodic lines and harmonic jangle one heard in C86-era pop bands and those on the Sarah Records imprint, or as heard by bands clearly influenced by that sound, into some surprisingly thoughtful and incisive songs for a trio of teenagers. The group’s 2016 album Up to Anything may sound like a new indie rock album on the surface but there’s something more durable about the compositions like The Birthday Present with less fuzzy edges. With the group’s 2018 album We’re Not Talking finds the band making exceptionally realized use of space and textural elements that give the emotional quality a surprising vividness while enhancing the impact of the introspective lyrics. Opening the show are two experimental bands from Denver, both more on the ambient end of the spectrum, including Chromadrift whose soft, post-rock-esque compositions capture the feeling of fall and winter with an uncanny accuracy. Teeth of the Hydra’s moody, organic drones feel like music for a Bela Tarr movie.
Friday | November 2, 2018
Who:Black Lips w/Surfbort and Dirty Few When: Friday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Black Lips are still that notorious garage punk band from Atlanta from whom you’re never 100% sure what you’ll get but the show will be energetic and border on the chaotic. Which suits the energy and aesthetic of Denver’s Dirty Few. But like Black Lips, the band has a gift for solid pop songwriting and Kim Phat’s vocals give otherwise fairly gritty songs an interesting combination of lightness and intensity. Surfbort from Brooklyn breaks modern punk convention in a variety of ways. Not with the music so much as it sounds a bit like 80s and early 90s punk as if the band cutting its teeth learning to play along to The Damned, Crass, Black Flag and Tribe 8. But Dani Miller looks like a real punk who has seen some rough days but is now channeling that into powerful vocals not unlike an American Eve Libertine thirty years hence. The band’s debut full length Friendship Music is everything punk should be—loud, sometimes obnoxious, irreverent and willing to experiment with sound as a complete and utter middle finger to convention and expectations. Miller is in her mid-20s and her bandmates in their 40s and 50s so there is a sensibility and dynamic that makes this band always a little different and for the better. Who:Tank and The Bangas and Big Freedia w/Naughty Professor When: Friday, 11.2, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Some of New Orleans’ finest will grace the Ogden stage tonight. Tank and The Bangas’ flavor of that hip-hop, jazz and R&B hybrid is deeply eclectic, gently lively, layered and uplifting in a way that feels sincere and wholesome without being hokey or self-righteous. It’s the musical equivalent of a nutritious meal with a perfect blend of delicious flavors that mutually enhance and satisfy all palates. Big Freedia is a pioneer of sissy-bounce but at this point really pushes hip-hop in interesting directions with his larger-than-life live show and refusal to be contained by an aesthetic that might contain the prodigious energy of his musical instincts. Live, Freedia’s songs can go off the rails in surreal and heady directions because of that more open-ended songwriting style and performance. Maybe now Freedia has honed the act and songwriting to be more precise in its effectiveness but one of Freedia’s main appeals is a nearly overwhelming sense of liberation from convention. Naughty Professor is a six-piece, improvisational jazz-funk band on the more experimental end of that sort of music—an example of when a real jam band can make some magic on stage rather than self-indulgently wank.
Who:Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/Sen Morimoto and Triplip When: Friday, 11.2, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is an artist everyone that think they’ve seen everything should check out because he is like a recombinant DNA mad scientist of musical genres. Punk spirit, sometimes sound, always that energy fused with hip-hop, avant-garde improv, weirdo funk, indie jazz and whatever else goes in to give life to his unusual song ideas and surreal-yet-meaningful-and-insightful-playful lyrics. Maybe he’s too weird to go to some bigger level of touring but don’t count on it and see him when he’s still playing these smaller rooms.
Saturday | November 3, 2018
Who:Quits w/Americas (Chicago), Reptoid (Oakland) and Arctobog and Bert Olsen When: Saturday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Denver based noise rock band Quits shares the Seventh Circle stage with math rock/neo-emo band Americas from Chicago, Oakland’s menacing, industrial-esque, noise rockers Reptoid, poetry/avant-garde punk lo-fi act Arctobog from Denver and Folk Implosion-esque lo-fi rock project Bert Olsen.
Who:Hot Apostles, The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Crimson Days (Robin Heitman, Nathan King, Garrett McGaugh and Nicolas Kjolhede) When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m. Where: The Squire Lounge Why: Nicolas Kjolhede recently moved back to Michigan after around a decade in Denver where he performed in the rock band Cutthroat Drifters. His signature moves, his clear passion for the music and his affable nature made him a true fixture in Denver’s underground music scene. Tonight he’ll perform with one of his new bands, Crimson Days, at the Squire Lounge with other noteworthy rock bands whose own musical vision isn’t limited to simple subgenre convention and who managed to be straight ahead rock bands with personality and not miming past classic rock glory as has been the temptation, unresisted, among too many bands today.
Who:Tera Melos w/Rumble Young Man Rumble and Dandu When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tera Melos definitely puts the weird in math rock with technically challenging song structures and dynamics. Radical shifts in direction like a post-hardcore Don Caballero gives Tera Melos’ songs a wiry momentum that one might expect an early band on the 31G imprint or out of late 90s DIY scene Providence, Rhode Island. Dandu from Denver can vibe with the math rock and angular jazz flow but its own music is also brimming with atmosphere.
Who:CT-X (Captured Tracks 10 Anniversary Tour) w/Drahla, Lina Tullgren, Wax Chattels When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Indie record label Captured Tracks is celebrating its first decade with tour featuring a fairly representative slice of it roster. Wax Chattels is what might have been called a dance punk band fifteen years ago but it’s far noisier and keys rather than guitar and reminiscent of 90s post-hardcore, synth heavy bands like The VSS and Milemarker. Lina Tullgren’s songs would fall within the realm of dream pop if they weren’t imbued with an urgency and sense of melancholy. Drahla from Leeds, UK is a post-punk outfit that has adopted a bit of the unpredictable guitar melodies one would have heard in Sonic Youth from the 80s or from northeast Canada’s noisier guitar bands like FRIGS or Preoccupations.
Sunday | November 4, 2018
Who:Love Hope Strength benefit w/The Alarm When: Sunday, 11.4, 3:30 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: The Alarm may not have been as famous as U2 (in fact The Alarm toured as support for U2 on the 1983 War tour), The Call or The The but its music was within that wheelhouse of uplifting, melodic, thoughtful rock with songwriting that tapped into the brighter places in your imagination. Its 1987 hit “Rain in the Summertime” remained a staple of college radio and modern rock format radio stations for years. In 2005 singer and main songwriter Mike Peters discovered he was suffering from a form of leukemia which inspired him to start a foundation called Love Hope Strength which benefits those suffering from cancer and raises awareness of the issues those stricken with the malady face. It’s an afternoon show so you can catch the band and help out a good cause and, you know, have plenty of time for everything else on a Sunday that you might get up to.
Who:Wild Nothing w/Men I Trust When: Sunday, 11.4, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: When Wild Nothing first emerged to a national audience, albeit on the more underground circuit, the group’s C86-inspired jangle rock seemed to incorporate post-punk moodiness and rhythms struck a sweet spot for a lot of people who maybe though the whole “chamber pop” thing and the wave of bands imitating 60s and 70s rock was wearing thin. That singer/guitarist Jack Tatum could convincingly evoke The Smiths without completely ripping off the Mancunians certainly had an appeal when the music industry seemed inundated with artists aiming for the mundanely rustic. The band’s 2018 album Indigo is a natural progression from its earlier records but its breezy melodies and synth washes are reminiscent of Kitchens of Distinction, The Teardrop Explodes, The Church and maybe even Soft Boys. And yet, Wild Nothing has added to the post-punk cannon by not at all sounding like a clone of any of its influences through finding consistently inventive ways of melding the aesthetics of electronic music, rock and pop.
Men I Trust from Montreal is a decidedly independent band whose DIY ethos one doesn’t often associate with a group making lush, jazzy, R&B-inflected dream pop. Fans of Toro Y Moi and Purity Ring will find a good deal to like about this trio.
Monday | November 5, 2018
Who:Molly Burch w/Jesse Woods and Pure Weed When: Monday, 11.5, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Molly Burch’s 2017 debut album Please Be Mine was remarkable not just for Burch’s delicately powerful voice and uncommonly superbly voiced instrumentals, but for how Burch can not only write from a place of hurt but doing so with an awareness of the humanity of those who hurt her and who she undoubtedly hurt in return. Her use of words honors the complexity of life and relationships with an immediacy and accessibility that usually comes a few albums in. Her sophomore effort, 2018’s First Flower finds Burch focusing more on exploring fraught moments of relationships outside the realm of the romantic as well as her issues with anxiety with the same insight and warmth that characterized her previous work.
Tuesday | November 6, 2018
Who:Acid Dad, Serpentfoot and Emerald Siam When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Acid Dad is one band that answered the question about whether a band could come out of the rock milieu/era when psychedelic garage rock and surf was the prevailing trend and still have something interesting to say using similar musical language. The answer is, of course, yes, and the band’s self-titled LP may be a nod to stuff like Wooden Shijps, Ty Segall and early psych classics but its subject matter is a refreshingly different take on social issues and personal travails. At times you’ll hear echoes of Madchester and Spacemen 3 as in the song “Marine” and early tracks like “Brain Body.” But even in their more languid moments there’s an energy to Acid Dad’s performances that makes them more than a cut above of the bands that sound like they listened to “Anemone” by Brian Jonestown Massacre too many times and made it their template except when they want to fuzz up some lazy surf rock licks. The local support for this show includes Fort Collins’ Serpentfoot who do that surf and psych thing better than most because there’s more than a little bite to its lively songs. Denver’s Emerald Siam draws on some of the same influences as Acid Dad but comes from a place of deep knowledge of garage rock, psychedelia and post-punk out of which it has woven a bright, sometimes brooding yet expansive, and uplifting yet gritty futuristic rock and roll.
Who:Jim James w/Alynda Segarra from Hurray For the Riff Raff and Andrea Gibson When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Jim James is of course known for his iconic work in My Morning Jacket. But his solo albums are always worth checking out and his 2018 album Uniform Distortion was, according to an April 2018 interview with NPR, inspired by his “fascination with The Last Whole Earth Catalog.” Whole Earth Catalog being the visionary publication that took emerging awareness of ecology, sustainability, DIY/self-sufficient culture and shared uncommon knowledge with anyone open to a counter cultural perspective grounded in fairly pragmatic information. The album itself sounds like James spent some time hanging out with 70s hippies who turned their idealism into informal institutions that still exist to this day. All the while absorbing musical ideas and translating them for the current era. It’s a fascinating aesthetic of retro-futurism that takes the concept of holism seriously and applies it to the music and how it’s presented.
Wednesday | November 7, 2018
Who:Death Valley Girls w/Gymshorts and Keef Duster When: Wednesday, 11.7, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: One of the Los Angeles band’s t-shirts proclaims that “Satan Worships Death Valley Girls.” And, really, wouldn’t love a group of lively hellions that so gloriously hurls together glam, punk, garage, psychedelia and shoegaze like a high camp Stooges. Iggy even appeared in the video for “Disaster (Is What We’re After),” a single from the 2018 album Darkness Rains, which is all the endorsement you need.