Best Shows in Denver April 2022

IDLES, photo courtesy the artists
Baroness, photo courtesy the artists

What: Baroness
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Friday | 04.01
What: Brandon Wald (owner of Black Ring Ritual Records out of ND), Viator, Many Blessings, Maltreatment, Tripp Nasty and MPW
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: There aren’t too many noise shows or places to see noise in Denver these days meaning a form of music/sound art is hard to come by in the live setting where it is best experienced. But this show will include local stars like Many Blessings aka Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man doing his harsh industrial noise project and Tripp Nasty whose body of work is so diverse and broad that some of it is in the realm of noise so who knows how that will manifest for this show so just best to go if you’re so inclined. Brandon Wald runs Black Ring Ritual Records, home to some of the more prime noise records and tapes of the last several years and his own noise is part power electronics, abstract industrial, harsh ambient and musique concrète.

Friday | 04.01
What: The Blue Rider w/Cleaner and Wes Watkins
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Psychedelic garage rock band The Blue Rider hasn’t been playing much in recent years since Mark Shusterman has been busy playing in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So catch the always surprisingly powerful and brain expanding show with Wes Watkins who has been involved in a variety of projects over the years like Wheel Chair Sports Camp and the aforementioned Night Sweats. But his own music betwixt jazz, R&B and funk is worthwhile in its own right.

Friday and Saturday | 04.01 and 04.02
What: The Goddamn Gallows & Scott H. Biram w/JD Pinkus
When: 8 p.m. both nights
Where: Larimer Lounge (04.01) and Swing Station (Laporte, CO on 04.02)
Why: The Goddamn Gallows sound like something you’d get if you mixed a scuzzy punk band, some murder ballad honky tonk and Black Sabbath. Scott H. Biram plays solo and while many men of his ethnic persuasion have abused the blues and country in ways largely boring and unforgiveable, Biram’s songwriting is so strong, diverse and sincere yet poetic he’ll make you forget those other guys that served as a blight in blues clubs for decades. JD Pinkus is indeed the bass player of Butthole Surfers and member of Honky. But this tour showcases his fragmented, haunted psychedelic country material. His 2021 album Fungus Shui is the peak of that aesthetic as crafted by Pinkus thus far.

Monday | 04.04
What: Spiritualized
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With the 2022 album Everything Was Beautiful expected out on April 22, 2022, Jason Pierce finds yet another way to blend freaky, spooky yet warmly engaging folk with space rock in ways transporting and transcendent. The roller coaster dynamic of late 90s music has long since given way to lush orchestral builds that flow in unpredictable yet satisfying directions so that listening to the album gets your brain to go down a different path than previous records from Pierce. With any luck the live show will reflect this bright aspects of this album without losing the dark cool that has made the songwriter’s material so fascinating since his early days with Spacemen 3.

SASAMI, photo by Alice Baxley

Tuesday | 04.05
What: SASAMI w/Jigsaw Youth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Squeeze, the 2022 album from SASAMI, is definitely a departure from the songwriter’s 2019 self-titled debut. Whereas there was a deeply chill energy to the downtempo aspect of that album, there is a more distorted and visceral quality to Squeeze that seems like a mirror image of the wonderfully ethereal quality of that first record. This might seem like too wide a stylistic swing, Sasami Ashworth has had a very eclectic career playing in Cherry Glazerr and contributing to albums by artists as widely different as Vagabon and Wild Nothing. Ashworth explores metallic sounds and much more aggressive song dynamics this time around while pushing the boundaries of her knack for pop songcraft with songs that sound sometimes metal, sometimes industrial, sometimes grunge and all made accessible. Fans of the broad spectrum of St. Vincent’s catalog would appreciate what SASAMI has been doing the past few years and beyond.

girl in red, photo by Jonathan Kise

Tuesday | 04.05
What: girl in red w/Holly Humberstone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: girl in red is the performance moniker of Marie Ulven Ringheim whose guitar pop has garnered critical acclaim beyond her home country of Norway. Her 2021 debut album if i could make it go quiet found the songwriter expanding beyond the bedroom pop compositions and recordings that brought her to prominence and it charts her struggles with the various ways in which one’s mind can sabotage your life. In addressing these personal demons in such a direct, honest and relatable way with such luminously warm melodies Ringheim doesn’t insult herself or the listener by suggesting something as trite as it’s all going to work out. Her depictions of the head spaces in which you can get stuck seem so vivid and immediate that they seem like something you can overcome or at least survive and dare to want more for yourself and reach for it than you seem to think is possible when you’re in the depths of your own personal hell.

Tuesday | 04.05
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Baby Tate, photo by Scrill Davis

Wednesday | 04.06
What: Charli XCX w/Baby Tate
When: 06:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: This show should probably be at a bigger venue but hey you get a chance to see Baby Tate before word gets out that her sex positive songs aren’t all production in the studio and in music videos. Sure, her mom is Dionne Farris who hopefully most people remember from her time in Arrested Development before branching out into a popular music career under her own name. But Baby Tate’s confidence isn’t just swagger, regardless of subject matter and word choice there is a deft and creative wordplay that syncs her words with the always imaginative beats with a fine ear for the use of bass that one doesn’t hear in enough hip-hop these days. Fans of Kari Faux should probably give Baby Tate a listen. And of course headlining is Charli XCX who is touring in support of her 2022 album Crash. Whether the record is the end of a chapter in the pop star’s career or hinting at a more experimental future direction, the singer sounds as confident as ever and the eclectic influences are on display so that beyond the typically strong vocals the driving bass of post-punk and the expert electronic dance music production allows for all elements to flow freely together in a way divergent from the hyperpop aesthetic of earlier offerings. Of all the pop songwriters in the mainstream, Charli XCX has long been one of the more consistently inventive and fascinating whose lyrics also hit as poignant and poetic.

Thursday | 04.07
What: CELE Presents: Chihei Hatakeyama w/Carl Ritger and Wind Tide
When: 7-11 p.m.
Where: 860 Vallejo St. (Denver)
Why: Chihei Katakeyama is an ambient/experimental electronic/drone artist from Tokyo, Japan whose work has found a home on Kranky but lately largely out of his own White Paddy Mountain imprint which showcases other artists that operate in similar realms of composition and sound design. Carl Ritger has been producing prepared environmental sound experiences under his own name and as Radere and a fixture of Denver’s ambient music scene for more than a decade. Wind Tide is presumably the musique concrète/ambient artist from Littlefield, Texas whose use of field recordings and processed noise captures the essence of the background sounds of civilization that often go ignored unless brought explicitly to your attention though not often as creatively as Wind Tide has done in an extensive Bandcamp catalog.

Jawbreaker, photo by John Dunne

Thursday and Friday | 04.07 and 04.08
What: Jawbreaker w/Descendents, Face To Face and Samiam
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Between 1986 and its break-up in 1996, Jawbreaker helped to shape the aesthetics and sound of what became pop punk and emo during that time and going forward. With albums like 1994’s influential 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You from 1995, which the group celebrates with this tour, Jawbreaker brought an existential self-examination to the lyrics and a creativity to the dynamics and textures of its songs that transcended the genres it helped to define. The trio has been back together since 2017 with a documentary about the band Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker releasing that same year. Listening back to its old albums the fingerprints of that music is clearly evident on a large swath of punk-oriented music of the past 25 years. Also on this bill are pioneering pop punk band The Descendents whose own anthemic songs likely proved an inspiration for Jawbreaker and both Face to Face and Samiam also sharing the stage this night.

Sarah Shook & The Disamers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Saturday | 04.09
What: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers w/Lillian
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook could have had a perfectly fine and successful career sticking to the modern country sound of their excellent first two records Sidelong and Years. Shook’s expressive vocals and finely crafted songs have always been informed by a thoughtful sensitivity with some grit underlying the delivery. The new album, 2022’s Nightroamer, produced by Dwight Yoakam collaborator Peter Anderson, has touches of effects on Shook’s voice which might strike some longtime fans as odd but overall those sonic details and a more expansive quality to the sound in general on the album feels like it opened up the singer’s songwriting a bit and lends it a quality that sounds more full and the musical equivalent of a color photo versus a black and white. Both have their appeal but more hues in emotion are emphasized. Lillian is a Denver-based singer-songwriter whose luminous songs in an Americana vein are difficult to pigeonhole. Her new album Chasing Shadows will be released at a show at The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club on April 21.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 04.09
What: Lose Your Head II: Ponce (Swampy Erotic Punk Blues), Julian St. Nightmare (Goth Rock), Ray Diess (Goth Pop), Savant Tarde (Post Wave), Hex Cassette (SynthGoth For Satan), Painted City (Synth Pop)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: Lose Your Head is an event that highlights some of Denver’s better underground bands in a more dawkwave, post-punk and experimental pop vein. The genres listed above in parentheses work as a vague idea of what you’re in for. Julian St. Nightmare are a visceral yet atmospheric post-punk band. Hex Cassette is industrial darkwave pop with a confrontational and wildly energetic live show. Painted City is for sure synth pop but in that art rock sense one might have seen more in the early 80s but with a sensibility that speaks to having coming up post-Radiohead. Ray Diess is definitely “Goth Pop” but also with a theatrical live show that fans of classic EBM will appreciate.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Abandons, Brother Saturn, Equine and Denizens of the Deep
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Brother Saturn will celebrate the release of his latest album Dreams of Sand at this show. As per usual, ethereal soundscapes that are both subtle and transporting and fans of the Hearts of Space program will find a lot to like with his material in general. Abandons is a heavier post-rock band. Denizens of the Deep also produces ambient/noise/modern classical music in a variety of modes but the latest album End Times is a good deal of distorted synth drone over mournful, melancholic compositions and moody piano. Equine is avant-garde prog informed by modal jazz and cosmic mathematics.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Fern Roberts, Vampire Squids From Hell and Mossgatherers
When: 8-11 p.m.
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Fern Roberts is a band that isn’t easy to classify and its latest album I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow occupies a musical space between late 80s Talk Talk, Animal Collective and Beach Fossils. Vampire Squids From Hell are an instrumental, psychedelic surf rock band.

Melvins, photo by Bob Hannam

Sunday | 04.10
What: Ministry w/Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: For this tour Ministry is mainly tapping into its songs from Psalm 69 and earlier and even playing”Supernaut” which leader Al Jourgensen covered for an EP by his side project 1000 Homo DJs. So maybe some other early material is in store for the rest of the tour as well. Corrosion of Conformity wasn’t explicitly a crossover band but one whose hardcore bridged the worlds of punk and thrash almost from the beginning. And of course Melvins are always a reliably entertaining live act that has pushed its own envelope since its early days in the 80s when it inspired a great swath of the grunge scene including guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne teaching Kurt Cobain to play guitar and drummer Dale Crover having been a member of Nirvana for a time in the early days. The trio’s impact on modern rock music is often underrated but indelible. In 2021 Melvins released two albums, Working with God, a record more in line with its always compelling noise rock, and Five Legged Dog, an acoustic album. You never have to worry about a rote Melvins show so get there early and see one of the truly great bands of the last 40 years in a place that sounds as great as Mission Ballroom.

Girl Talk, photo by Joey Kennedy

Monday | 04.11
What: Girl Talk w/Hugh Augustine
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gregg Gillis as Girl Talk took the mashup to new levels in the 2000s as a DJ who, inspired by 90s IDM, alternative artists and noise, created surprisingly unique blends of sounds, rhythms and musical concepts. In 2022 Girl Talk released a collaborative album with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. And Smoke DZA called Full Court Press in which Gillis was able to use his production expertise to weave together the contributions of three hip-hop artists not short on personality and idiosyncratic styles. The album represents Gillis’ first full record since 2010’s All Day but also one of the higher points of an already interesting and genre bending career.

Bootblacks, photo by Katrin Albert Photography

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bootblacks w/Plague Garden and DJ Kilgore
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Bootblacks started in New York City in 2010 around the early stage of the current wave of darkwave and post-punk. Its intricate rhythms and brooding atmospherics sync well with what feels like a visceral intensity, especially live, that brings an urgency and forcefulness to the music that is missing from the music of some later bands tapping into similar sources of inspiration. Bootblacks didn’t get to tour on its 2020 album Thin Skies for reasons with which we’re all too entirely familiar so this tour will find the band able to give the material its proper presentation. Fans of Chameleons will appreciate Bootblacks dusky take on dreamlike, observational nightlife anthems. Plague Garden is a similarly-minded post-punk band from Denver with roots in punk and EBM.

Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, photo by Thomas Girard

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Mercury Rev
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev started around the same time around the beginning of the 90s on opposite sides of the country. But both incorporated elements of folk, psychedelic rock and experimental soundscaping into their respective mix of sounds. BJM became an influential band in the American and international underground with a fiercely DIY spirit that went from making records to touring and promoting its music. Singer Anton Newcombe’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics and ever evolving songwriting injected the expansive and imaginative spirit of late 60s psychedelic rock and art rock into a the zeitgeist of the often anemic late-90s post-alternative rock musical landscape and culture with ample personality and unpredictable live shows, some going sideways, mostly striking a chord with disaffected creative people wherever the band toured. Since that time Newcombe has tried his hand at a variety of musical styles while maintaining a subversive and forward thinking creative vision channeled into prolific output. In late spring we can expect to see the release of the new BJM record Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and its the result of Newcombe’s active experiments in composition and production over the past few years in his Berlin studio. Of course live the group is reliably vital. Mercury Rev from upstate New York was started by former Flaming Lips guitarist Jonathan Donohue and with longtime guitarist Grasshopper, Mercury Rev too has been on a creative arc that has taken them to fascinating places from early, warped psychedelia and space rock to the deeply affecting dream pop of breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs (1998) and explorations of personal mythology and the ways our inner lives manifest in how we make sense of the world on every album since. Live, Mercury Rev is transcendent, inspirational and just the thing you need to fill up after a long time being hollowed out by the less fun aspects of life.

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bill Frisell Trio
When: 6 p.m.
Where: MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater
Why: Bill Frisell is one of the great living jazz guitarists. From Baltimore, Frisell spent many of his formative years in Denver and Colorado as a graduate of East High School. Going to Berklee took him back to the east coast and he was a studio musician for the prestigious jazz label ECM and when he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey he became a fixture in the NYC jazz scene where he came to collaborate with multiple luminaries of the era including John Zorn, going on to become a member of Naked City, the wildly experimental jazz band. By the late 80s Frisell had relocated to Seattle and continued his already noteworthy solo career but also continuing to collaborate with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and on film and television scores. Frisell maintains his connections to the Denver avant-garde and occasionally plays locally including this rare chance to see his trio at the MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 04.15
What: The Velveteers w/Dry Ice and Rose Variety
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The Velveteers released its most recent album Nightmare Daydream in 2021 and demonstrated a great leap forward in terms of songwriting for anyone that hadn’t been keeping up with the band in its live performances. Produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, Nightmare Daydream is a blues rock record informed by imaginative songwriting with lyrics that reveal an astute assessment of relationships, the social scene around the world of music and the nuances of human psychology but channeled into bombastic songs that in the live setting have proven to be forceful and captivating. Anyone that saw the Gothic Theatre album release show got to witness a band in full command of its powers with a fiery performance that felt like you were getting to see a famous rock band on the verge of reaching a far wider audience. With upcoming dates with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet it’s likely the trio’s star will be rising so catch The Velveteers for a hometown show at The Fox Theatre before it breaks through to a mainstream audience.

Friday | 04.15
What: Mogwai w/Nina Nastasia
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Scottish post-rock band Mogwai has consistently delivered cinematic guitar music across the breadth of its career going back nearly three decades. But even at that its 2021 album As the Love Continues comes as a bit of a surprise as it includes even more evocative vocals in no way buried in the mix as well as those more processed and a finely nuanced soundscaping with electronic elements and rock instrumentation working in perfect sync to at times remind one of a Wendy Carlos composition (i.e. “Fuck Off Money”). There are no mediocre Mogwai albums but it is one that goes to wider vistas musical vistas than to which the band has traveled in some time.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Actors w/Scifidelic, Weathered Statues and DJ Sin
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Canadian post-punk band Actors have been crafting New Wave-inflected darkwave for around a decade now and its 2021 album Acts of Worship sounds like a dance club soundtrack from a forgotten, 1980’s transcendental science fiction movie. Like maybe if the club Tech Noir from The Terminator got its own movie after being re-opened in 2020. The album’s echoing guitar riffs, melodically brooding vocals, hazy synth lines accented with crystalline tones are reminiscent of early 80s Human League had the league fully incorporated guitars and taken some inspiration from Fad Gadget. And the warping, upbeat, melancholic melodies of songs like “Killing Time (Is Over)” is thoroughly captivating with its unconventional dynamics like something you’d hear on an early Brian Eno “solo” album.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Calm./Time w/Wilt to Live and Lucy Freedom at Mutiny Information Café 8 p.m.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Calm./Time is one of the great hip-hop projects of Denver music with sharp, political lyrics infused with an incisive and playful sense of humor. With some of the most creative beats steeped in not only classic alternative hip-hop but experimental music and art pop, Calm. (comprised of rapper Time and producer Awareness) always seems to make high concept social commentary accessible and engaging.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Pile (Rick Maguire solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: From the Facebook event page because I can’t do better: “While the band is known for its dynamic and bombastic live performances, Maguire recontextualizes the material by performing on his own, something he has continued to do throughout the project’s history. 2021 saw documentation of this aspect of Pile in Songs Known Together, Alone, a solo re-imagining of 15 songs across Pile’s catalog.”

Snail Mail, photo by Tina Tyrell

Sunday | 04.17
What: Snail Mail w/Joy Again
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Lindsey Jordan seems to have packed more than a lifetime of heartbreak and pain into her 2021 Snail Mail album Valentine. The title track alone so vividly captures what it feels like to be in the worst throes of a bad breakup and is kind of an inverted Valentine expressing feelings of love and affection that have no direction because of the split and how that can churn inside you leaving you in agonized confusion. Which is a tricky feeling to get across. “Ben Franklin” is apparently about Jordan’s time in a rehab facility, a place for which there all sorts of reasons to end up in for a time, and in the music video for the song she moves about with an energetic playfulness the way many people do with words and actions until they’re ready to have the breakthroughs that are necessary to move on. But the whole record is a brilliantly poetic pop exploration of the various phases of being in some of life’s lowest places set to lush arrangements and inventive guitar compositions that are reminiscent of the more interesting late 90s emo bands that blurred genre lines like Rainer Maria and Milemarker except that Jordan’s sounds reflect the gentleness better suited to expressing wounded feelings and lingering hurt. And yet there is a sense that these songs helped Jordan to crawl through the most vivid memories of their inspirations.

Sunday | 04.17
What: Radolescents w/The Haji, Noogy and Egoista – canceled
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Radolescents is Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer of the Adolescents along with original Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew’s son Frank Agnew Jr on vocals, Dan O’Donovan on guitar and Dan Colburn on bass performing the Adolescents’ 1981 self-titled record aka The Blue Album in its entirety. Rikk Agnew has been responsible for some of the most inventive and memorable guitar tones out of punk rock including his performance on the 1982 deathrock classic Only Theatre of Pain while a member of Christian Death. Live performance video out there for this lineup has been pretty solid so here’s a chance to see one of the most iconic bands out of punk of the last 40+ years.

Sunday | 04.17
What: mssv aka Main Steam Stop Valve (Mike Bagg, Stephen Hodges and Mike Watt)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: mssv has quite a pedigree including obvious master bass player Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame but also Stephen Hodges who played drums on Tom Waits records like Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. He also played on various soundtracks including those for Until the end of the World and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. No big deal. But with Mike Bagg whose own performance resume is respective for his work with distinguished jazz artists and avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline. Together they make what might be described as a mutant type of free jazz and surf rock.

Monday | 04.18
What: Sleep w/Superwolves (Matthew Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The right people are going to appreciate this strange folk and blues band Superwolves comprised of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Chavez guitarist/singer Matthew Sweeney opening for psychedelic sludgerocks’s heaviest of the heavy, Sleep. Some people are going to be so put off and angry that will be amusing on its own. Too bad for those people though because two great bands on one bill with this stylistic swing should happen more often. Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) has influenced a generation of musician though his various bands over the years and his solo records as well for inventive and intricate guitar work and heartfelt, tender, poetic and witty lyrics and Sleep has perhaps more than any other single band outside of Black Sabbath spawned the doom metal genre as we know it but few have equaled their sonic grandeur and imaginative songwriting.

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

Monday and Tuesday | 04.18 and 04.19
What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo CozmoRescheduled, date TBD
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo made a name for himself as the frontman for Laguardia in the the first half of the 2000s and then for a decade as the lead singer for Eastern Conference Champions. But since 2015 he has been recording and performing under the Mondo Cozmo moniker and crafting heartfelt and genre eclectic music. His new album, 2022’s This Is For The Barbarians takes Ostrander deep into his roots in rebellious folk artists like Bob Dylan and his more experimental electronic interests at the same time. The album is like a Radiohead album but more informed by folk and more overtly pop but with the appropriately rough around the edges quality to suit the times that surrounded the process of writing the songs with Ostrander commenting on the highs and very low depths of the world in the past half decade and his insight into personal psychology and the American zeitgeist is as cathartic as it is inspirational. And yes, opening for Toxic Airborne Event whose own long career of luminously gritty alternative rock has garnered a bit of a cult following. Its 2020 album Hollywood Park, sharing the title with singer Mikel Jollett’s memoir of the same name from the same year, was unsurprisingly as literarily as musically as poignant album as any in the group’s career to date and certainly seemingly its most personal.

IDLES, photo by Tom Ham

Tuesday | 04.19
What: IDLES w/Automatic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: IDLES first came to the attention of a wider international audience with the 2017 release of its debut full length album Brutalism. Its exhilaratingly spirited live shows and the poetic intensity and social consciousness and deep self-examination reflected in the lyrics had an immediately appeal that seemed another high point in the then relatively recent resurgence of punk and post-punk that made that style of music seem relevant and exciting again. The 2018 second album Joy As An Act of Resistance in title alone sounded like a call to action for putting energy and will into the world around you that engages people in a positive and compassionate yet passionate manner. Since then 2020’s Ultra Mono took some knocks by various critics as a creative plateau if not a dip in the exciting potential of the band’s previous work but Crawler (2021) proved IDLES is not out of ideas and certainly not out of the incredible energy that is clearly behind its live performances. When IDLES performed at Larimer Lounge 2018 it was unlike most club shows of late with lead singer Joe Talbot ranging far into the crowd to break down the performer and audience barrier the way the songs often do, like they’re speaking directly from your life. Opener Automatic is a trio from Los Angeles whose own flavor of rhythm-and-synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of early OMD. Its forthcoming and second album Excess releases on June 24, 2022 with retrofuturist music videos that compliment its aesthetic so well. In commenting on the song “New Beginning” the band references the Swedish science fiction film Aniara which is one of the better neo-dystopian films of recent years.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Soft Kill w/Alien Boy, Topographies, Candy Apple and Destiny Bond
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Soft Kill was one of the earliest of the current wave of darkwave/post-punk bands with a decent string of releases with its 2020 album Dead Kids R.I.P. City being its finest and a poignant commentary on the confluence of the growth of Portland, Oregon both organically and through the poisonously mutant manner that the tech industry and other moneyed interests have initiated globally and the ways in which underground music scenes and cultures have been all but washed out of larger and perceivedly hip cities. The music was a little predictable in that obviously influenced by The Cure and The Chameleons way early on but that latest record has some more inventive songwriting and what comes across as a sincere and tender, melancholic observational lament on people lost and a way of life for creative people and others involved in vital subcultures essentially made a thing of the past or at least a shadow of its former self. Alien Boy is also from Portland and its own melancholic blend of punk, emo and atmospheric guitar rock is imbued with its own melancholic spirit inspired by the struggle with the usual everyday stuff that can be a drag if you’re at all sensitive and thoughtful but also with a culture that in too many quarters is hostile to the very existence of certain sectors of society. Candy Apple from Denver perfectly combines spirited hardcore and Hüsker Dü and The Jesus And Mary Chain-esque noise rock. Destiny Bond also from Denver comes from a similar realm of music but one closer to emo but more aggressive in its expression of vulnerability.

Black Map, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.19
What: 10 Years w/Black Map and VRSTY
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Black Map is a post-hardcore band from San Francisco comprised of members of Far, Dredg and Trophy Fire. Though supporting alternative metal band 10 Years on this tour its 2022 album Melodoria is the kind of melodic heavy music that bends toward emo and definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of Circa Survive as its not on the screamo or pop punk end of post-hardcore.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Jon Spencer & The HITmakers w/Quasi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Spencer has been giving us gloriously demented and exciting psychedelic blues and garage rock since at least his time in Pussy Galore. But with his new band he collides together all of the stuff you might expect with industrial music production and willingness to introduce non-musical sounds and concepts into the mix. The group’s new album Spencer Gets It Lit is like a retrofuturist science fiction movie as imagined through the lens of an unlikely Suicide and the Cramps team-up and then turned into wonderfully strange and sometimes unsettling songs, which has been Spencer’s modus operandi through various projects for decades. Anything to weird out the squares and honestly the world has been in desperate need for such creative gestures in increasing amounts over the last several years. On the record you can hear the synth and vocal stylings of Sam Coomes of opening band Quasi which is no experimental rock slouch project either with drummer Janet Weiss who in rock and roll right now has to be considered one of the top tier talents. Most people probably know her from her long stint in Sleater-Kinney but anyone lucky enough to have seen her with Quasi or Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks has seen a different facet of her considerable talent.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Blushing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is pretty much the shoegaze or shoegaze adjacent show of the year with Blushing touring in support of its new album Possessions. Its hazy and urgent melodies are enveloping and hypnotic. Letting Up Despite Great Faults also based in Austin weaves in a bit more twee pop stylings into its gorgeous soundscapes. Its own new album, IV, is back to back entrancing material about the more subtle sides of life and daily struggles and in “She Spins” one of the great melodic guitar progressions of the past two decades. Old Soul Dies Young from Denver mixes expansive guitar atmospheres with an almost black metal grit and lo-fi aesthetic seemingly inspired in part by anime and manga, or so its releases on the group’s Bandcamp suggests. Moodlighting like Letting Up Despite Great Faults puts the pop songcraft at the center of its own amalgam of indiepop and dream pop.

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Parquet Courts w/Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you were to name the top ten post-punk bands now that are pushing that form of music forward with creativity and ambitious songwriting while putting out some of the most sharp critiques of modern politics and society, Parquet Courts would be near the top of that list. Its 2021 album Sympathy For Life has an almost mystical album art design and its songs combine the use of mythical storytelling with stories of the folly of human civilization, especially late stage capitalism, and our often flawed ways of coping in the face of a deeply uncertain future.

Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Friday | 04.22
What: Waxahatchee w/Madi Diaz
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Katie Crutchfield has been releasing deeply personal and insightful folk pop albums as Waxahatchee since her 2012 solo debut album American Weekend. Crutchfield’s gift for articulating existential uncertainty, personal devastation and yearning has imbued her recorded output with a underlying but always present spirit of compassion for self and others. Her 2021 album Saint Cloud expands her sound palette further with synths and programming serving as a backdrop, a context for songs that speak directly to a world of accelerating sources of anxiety and by grounding her songs in directly relatable experiences rather than contemplative theoreticals. The songs come off like a great country record informed by imaginative songwriting that pairs grit with poetic observations as ingredients in keeping present when so many things drive us to dissociate.

Friday | 04.22
What: Emerald Siam, Weathered Statues and We Are Not a Glum Lot
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Emerald Siam has long been fusing a dark and melancholic sound with a brightness of spirit that rises through the psychological murk that can bog everyone down so easily these days. Its membership includes former members of bands like Twice Wilted, Tarmints, The Bedsit Infamy and Wild Call and its alchemical use of rhythm tied to dynamic rhythms plus frontman Kurt Ottaway’s passionate vocals is hard to beat. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound is rooted in the classics of that subgenre but there is something so upbeat and spirited about its sound and performance that associating the music with something gloomy seems inaccurate as its moody atmospherics have an expansive energy. We Are Not A Glum Lot all but suggests it’s going to be a an emo band of some kind and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark as its intricate guitar melodies and wiry rhythms have a leg in 2000s emo but also one in shoegaze and gritty post-punk. Think something like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with Jawbox and you have some idea of what you’re in for.

Saturday | 04.23
What: Ho99o9 w/N8NOFACE
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Ho99o9 from Newark, NJ have somehow managed to completely fold together industrial music, hip-hop, hyperpop, hardcore and noise for one of the most immediately riveting sounds around. The live show is as visceral and as confrontational as you might imagine but also brimming with a sense of joy at shattering the conventions of established genre music-making.

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, photo by Chris Phelps

Saturday and Sunday | 04.23 and 04.24
What: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs w/Sammy Brue
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Mike Campbell is indeed the influential guitarist who was once a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a co-writer of many of the band’s hit songs across decades. This is his new band and they’re touring small venues in support of the band’s lively new album External Combustion. So go expecting an arena rock level show at these small theaters. Less polished than the Heartbreakers, this project from Campbell showcases the musician consistently cutting loose a little more than he has in his long and storied career.

PUP, photo by Jess Baumung

Sunday and Monday | 04.24 and 04.25
What: PUP w/Sheer Mag, Pink Shift
When: 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre and Boulder Theater
Why: PUP is one great bands to have emerged out of the 2010s as purveyors of the kind of heartfelt pop punk that seemed to revitalize that style of music and bring to it a healthy sense of self-deprecation and introspection expressed in spirited, anthemic songs that feel less like refurbished angst and more like catharsis in camaraderie. Its new album The Unraveling of PUPTheBand has more than its fair share of tasty hooks but also of lyrics that vividly capture the frustrations of the average person trying to navigate the vicissitudes of life in the modern world seemingly on the brink of some kind of disaster. Sheer Mag is the punk band that sounds like it grew up listening to a ton of AC/DC and Slade but ended up discovering working class punk and decided not to see why those sounds and ideas should be separate. Its 2019 album A Distant Call has the visual aesthetics of a Judas Priest record but lyrics that were a sharp critique of plain old American greed and political corruption and the immediate and deleterious impacts on every aspect of life.

Particle Kid, photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger

Monday | 04.25
What: The Flaming Lips w/Particle Kid
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Flaming Lips will forever be to some people the scrappy weirdo band from Oklahoma that made strange, psychedelic music with vivid lyrics about life’s challenging and colorful moments before and after a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s before circumstances within the band and a crisis of creativity sent the group back to the drawing boards. After the parking lot experiments in performance, the perhaps ill-considered yet brilliant Zaireeka released on four CDs meant to be played simultaneously for the full effect of the music and then deep diving into alternative methods of recording with its creative high point then thus far with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. In the 2000s the band’s star ascended further than most people might have expected with its various stylistic experiments and becoming the kind of band that seemed to be playing every festival and embraced by fans of unusual rock music and jam band types. And then the Lips would put out some of its most daring and deeply introspective and insightful albums like 2013’s The Terror and American Head from 2020. If history seems correct for the Lips, this would be a tour to see. Opening the show is Particle Kid and his eclectic, countrified, psychedelic new record TIME CAPSULE includes collaborations with J Mascis and Willie Nelson. Which sounds like it could be a trainwreck but instead it’s an unusually touching set of contemplative, observational songs on American culture and our trying to make sense of it all. It is somehow both nostalgic and imbued with a paradoxically chill immediacy.

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

Monday | 04.25
What: Yumi Zouma w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yumi Zouma from Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand have spent the last eight years or so crafting tender dream pop imbued with a buoyant energy tempered by hazy, introspective tones. It’s 2022 album Present Tense explores the nuances of love and romance in the current period with a poetic sensibility and music that flows with a smoothly cinematic quality lending each song feel like a short film with all the drama of the story coming together poignantly in under four minutes. Jazz-like structures and strings throughout the album renders it like a new take on chamber pop without any of the pretentiousness.

Deftones, photo by Tamar Levine

Monday | 04.25
What: Deftones w/Gojira and VOWWS
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Deftones are arguably the most influential of the newer style of metal band that came to prominence in the 1990s. The ability of the band to not just tap into a hybrid metal aesthetic but to weave in an always interesting and evolving atmospheric element that has been a part of its songwriting since early on. 2000’s White Pony was like a dream pop album written with the sound palette of a brooding metal group in search of a sound that better expressed the breadth and depth of emotions of its content with the tonal nuance to hit the ears with something more creative and interesting than the usual bludgeoning edginess of much of 90s metal. The combination gave the anger and pain in the album a raw accessibility than it might have had otherwise. The group’s 2020 album Ohms pushed the songwriting further into a more soundscape-y mode that had more in common with the likes of Failure and at times Swervedriver than metal. But that record came out in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic and of course the veteran band didn’t have a way to tour in support of what might be its finest set of songs until this run of shows with support from French death metal band Gojira and prominent darkwave duo VOWWS.

Deserta, image from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Deserta w/Little Trips and Mon Cher
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Deserta is a Los Angeles-based shoegaze band whose songs sound like a more benevolent side of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The project’s new album Every Moment, Everything You Need has whispery vocals that fit right in with the languid builds and grainy melodies and insular mood. Its previous album 2020’s Black Aura My Sun was reminiscent of a more summery Slowdive if influenced by bedroom pop and the new record like a modern take on 80s New Wave but with sultry guitar atmospherics that trail off into the middle distance. Little Trips is a lo-fi dream pop outfit from Denver with a knack for subtle synth melodies that integrate well with chill beats and Mon Cher, also from the Mile High City, is a synth and piano-driven dream pop trio whose melancholic spaciousness is refreshingly not in some trendy mold of that style of music broadly speaking.

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Bloody Knives w/Twin Image and Juliet Mission
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Austin’s Bloody Knives sound like what might be called an industrial shoegaze band with fairly strong electronic and electric musical components in its sound and seeming inspiration from 90s experimental electronic pop. Twin Image is the latest project from former Fell frontman and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Wambeke and this time it’s more like a shoegaze/slowcore hybrid which is roughly the lane in which Fell existed but Twin Image is even more introspective and somehow more brash. Juliet Mission includes former members of alternative rock/shoegaze band Sympathy F and this long-running project truly captures and expresses the dark, moody vibe of Denver from back when downtown at night was both a perilous and magical place, evoking the specific melancholic flavor that is one of the hallmarks of the city no matter how much shine Nü Denver projects try to gloss over the top.

Knocked Loose, photo by Perri Leigh

Wednesday | 04.27
What: Knocked Loose w/Movements, Kublai Khan and Koyo
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: While metalcore battered itself into self-parody as a movement sometime in the 2000s its leading lights and adjacent artists of note like Poison the Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and others have endured as an influence on hardcore and heavy music for their ability to express a furious kind of outrage through cathartic live performances and having a more imaginative take on that hybrid musical style that can seem monolithic. Since the 2010s metalcore has experienced a kind of renaissance with Knocked Loose from Oldham County, Kentucky being one of the most prominent bands out of that new wave. In 2021 Knocked Loose released its latest EP A Tear In The Fabric of Life with an full animation of the EP by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Jonsson from a story by Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris. This time out the band seems to be drawing out its grindcore influence a bit while expanding its dynamic range.

Thursday | 04.28
What: MONO w/Bing & Ruth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Japanese post-rock band MONO has been quite prolific in its 23 years of existence releasing creatively ambitious, mostly instrumental rock albums that speak more eloquently to emotions and ideas in a nuanced and eloquent way than many standard issue rock bands that spell out what they have to say more explicitly. This has mean the group’s music takes on rendering its meaning beyond specific cultural context. The music is rock but also extends to a modern version of classical music with elegant structure and formal composition tempered by an organic spontaneity. Live this quality translates perhaps most directly.

Vahco Before Horses circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 04.28
What: Vahco Before Horses, Polly Urethane, Pearls and Perils, Blank Human, Esu the Illest, Space Pirate, Morpgorp and Joohs Uhp
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Vahco Before Horses is moving to the Netherlands soon and this is going to be his last show as a resident of Denver. The producer/singer/musician has run a local record label called Glasss and now Glass Melts which focused on more experimental music in the local underground and beyond. Vahco spent some time on both coasts in the music industry at various levels and brought some of that sensibility to his work in music in Denver. His own music is a surprisingly soulful form of electronic pop music with powerful vocals and vivid emotional portraits of life. Also on this bill is experimental downtempo artist Pearls and Perils, the weirdo techno of Blank Human, avant-garde mashup hip-hop hooligans Joohs Uhp, transcendent industrial pop soundscaper Polly Urethane, forward thinking rapper-producer Esu the Illest and others. Though kind of a farewell show to Vahco it’s also a fairly solid showcase of one important branch of left field underground music from the Mile High City.

VR Sex, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 04.29
What: VR Sex w/Lunacy
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: VR Sex is the more punk alias of Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty fame. This project is more gritty in tone, noisier and more brash. Adopting the performance moniker of Noel Skum (an irreverent anagram of Elon Musk which is pretty on point), Clinco’s songwriting for VR Sex is ordered around clashing dynamics that sound like the kinds of songs a futuristic biker gang might listen to when getting up to some crimes aimed at yet another attempt at authoritarian control of all things in an asymmetrical warfare approach to taking down the man. The new record Rough Dimension with its cover clearly a nod to The Blair Witch Project all too poignantly encapsulates in sound the static, urgency and chaos that we face every day but blasting it apart with buzz saw riffs and attitude. Lunacy from Pennsylvania recently released Echo In The Memory is a bracing, ghostly industrial post-punk record that sounds like life after humans per the History Channel series but for real—gorgeously stark soundscapes with firm rhythm lines and washes of ethereally caustic atmospheres.

Big Thief, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 04.29
What: Big Thief w/Kara-Lis Coverdale
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Big Thief became so popular so quickly you might be excused for dismissing it out of hand as a buzz band of the moment. But its particular brand of indie folk rock strikes deep chords, comes off as deeply honest and personal and its use of space expertly rendered so that it feels like Adrianne Lenker is singing directly to you about your own life. Its 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You seems so developed and practiced yet also unvarnished and vulnerable. If there is a popular style of indie folk that has been plaguing playlists and the airwaves and watering down the impact of the music, Big Thief here is the opposite of that by embracing what might be considered flaws as simply an essential aspect of our analog humanity and the way we live and exist in a world where not everything is streamlined for easy consumption and the band takes many sonic chances on the record that many artists on a similar level of popularity would not and that makes what Big Thief is doing now seem incredibly refreshing.

Tempers, photo by Julia Khoroshilov

Saturday | 04.30
What: Tempers w/Lesser Care, Julian St. Nightmare and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tempers from NYC has been developing its dusky darkwave synth pop for the last several years with albums that seem to draw on a hazy 80s post-punk aesthetic for inspiration but also rooted in modern techno. Its 2022 album New Meaning is arguably its most coherent effort yet with songs about coming to terms with living in a time of great uncertainty and needing to create meaning where it might be eroding in meaningful ways in various areas of life and in the world around you. The cover image of the staircase to nowhere that is a part of contemporary creepy pasta culture as manifested so powerfully in Butcher’s Block, the third season of prematurely canceled horror anthology series Channel Zero. As a symbol for the album it works too as an enigmatic image that requires us to imagine where we might make the staircase take us and the peril of not building something beyond the great unknown that seems to be paralyzing the psyches of so many and otherwise sowing insecurity and desperation in a social environment that wasn’t already short on such things.

Saturday | 04.30
What: LEAF w/Negativland and SUE-C
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Arts Hub
Why: Lafayette Electronic Arts Festvial returns with a set from legendary performance art/avant-garde electronic/sound collage project Negativland and live cinema artist SUE-C collaborating on a performance that comments on the dystopian tech environment that is plaguing so much of life in the 21st century thus far.

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland https://globehall.com/event/the-weather-station-helena-deland-presented-by-kgnu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice https://www.missionballroom.com/event/405967-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.

Best Shows in Denver September 2021

Emerald Siam performs at Down in Denver Fest on Saturday, Sep 4, 2021 11 p.m. Photo by Tom Murphy From Dec 2019
Quits in October 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Midwife in October 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Torres, photo by Shervin Lainez

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.

Front 242 in April 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Wild Pink, photo by Mitchell Wojcik

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.

Judas Priest in November 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Cadence Weapon in June 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

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 Parallel World.

Queen City Sounds and Art Best Albums of 2020

Sex Swing | Type II | Rocket Recordings

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.

Deerhoof | Teenage Cave Artists | Joyful Noise
Reliably Beefheartian, lo-fi No Wave-esque, boundary-breaking avant-pop.

Down Time | Hurts Being Alive | self-released

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.

Best Shows in Denver 2/21/20 – 2/25/20

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt performs at Bluebird Theater on February 23, photo by Beto Barkmo

Friday | February 21

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Stonefield, photo courtesy the band

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: Jack Wright/Ben Wright+Michael O’Neill/Ryan Seward, New Standards Men, Ryan McRyhew and Chris Culhane
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A night of avant-garde jazz, improvisational experimental rock and analog synth composition.

What: Tonguebyte (EP release) w/Paul Maul, Cagemates and CFX Project
When: Friday, 2.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Saturday | February 22

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Ezra Furman, photo by Jessica Lehrman

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: Bernstock 2020: Innerspace, False Report, Castele, Lungburn, Rotten Reputation and Wall of the Fallen
When: Saturday, 2.22, 5 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Local Denver punk and hardcore bands come together for a fundraiser to benefit the only candidate in the Democratic race to run against Trump that fully embraces a pro-working class agenda and grassroots democracy.

What: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Colfax Speed Queen and Pout House
When: Saturday, 2.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Sorted #12: Objekt and Pariah
When: Saturday, 2.22, 10 p.m.
Where: TBA

Sunday | February 23

Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt, photo by Beto Barkmo

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: Standards, Floral, How to Think and Birdhouse View
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Dweezil Zappa Hot Rats Live + Other Hot Stuff 1969
When: Sunday, 2.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Monday | February 24

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

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Ceremony, photo by Rick Rodney

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.

Best Shows in Denver 2/13/20 – 2/18/20

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The New Pornographers perform at the Gothic Theatre on February 15

Thursday | February 13

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Serpentfoot circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Chella And The Charm circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Silversun Pickps w/Eliza & The Delusionals
When: Friday, 2.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

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

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Mattiel, photo by Jason Travis

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: Sango w/Savon and Dante ThatGuy
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Eigengrau, Night of Dark Light, Causer and Human Consumption
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Sunday | February 16

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Pinegrove, photo by Daniel Topete

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: Darpabong EP release and final show w/The Plastic Rakes and Secret Mormon
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Darpabong is finally releasing its debut EP leaked in 2019 at this show. The “Stoner Doom Dub” band includes members of Gort Vs. Goom so even if this final show is a bit of a goof the music will be legit.

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

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The Jungle Giants, photo by Jesper Hede

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.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 12/20/19 – 12/23/19

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Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 is being released and celebrated during events this weekend

Friday | December 20

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Echo Beds, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Panther Martin w/Wet Nights, Marti and the Dads
When: Friday, 12.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Reno Divorce w/Tejon Street Corner Thieves and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Colorado People’s Alliance Fundraiser with Gone Full Heathen, Lost Boi, Joel Zigman and more
When: Friday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Saturday | December 21

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Causer, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Surfacing – Winter Solstice show: Mirror of Truth (Esmé Patterson solo project), EA$$IDE LUPITA Korryne solo, Bell Mine, Kaumaha
When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Titwrench festival will return in 2020 to feature some of the most interesting female, LGBTQIA and marginalized community artists. This event is a showcase for what’s to come and a fundraiser for the future festival. It’s the debut of Esmé Patterson’s experimental music project and will include a performance of Korryne of R A R E B Y R D $’ solo project EA$$IDE LUPITA.

What: Jade Cicada w/Seppa, Shield, Mad Zach, Bricksquash and Schmoop
When: Saturday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

What: Charlie Parr w/Dead Horses
When: Saturday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Decemburger IV: In the Company of Serpents, Nekrofilth, Ghosts of Glaciers, The Munsens, Casket Huffer, Upon A Fields Whisper
When: Saturday, 12.21, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 22

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

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).

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Claudzilla w/Artificial Bladder (synth pop), Preparation (ambient)
When: Sunday, 12.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Weirdo keytar pop maven Claudzilla will perform along with likeminded weirdos Artificial Bladder and Preparation.

Monday | December 23

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EVP, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Aunti Hoppa, Sur Ellz, Techno Allah and EVP
When: Monday, 12.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A show where breakbeat dance music, hip-hop, electro soul and melodic industrial glitch meet.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 11/7/19 – 11/13/19

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Frankie Cosmos performs at Bluebird Theater on November 7, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Thursday | November 7

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Stephen Steinbrink circa October 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Juan MacLean DJ set w/boyhollow and Retrofette (DJ set)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box

What: HXXS (KC), Luxury Hearse, Kid Mask, Blood Wolf (NM)
When: Thursday, 11.7, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

Friday | November 8

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Kyle Emerson, photo by Rett Rogers

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.

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FILTH circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Codename: Carter w/SPELLS and Zephyr
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: The Roots
When: Friday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium

Saturday | November 9

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Pedestrian Deposit circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Necropanther, photo courtesy the artists

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: Pink Hawks’ Scorpio Party: Pink Hawks, Los Mocochetes, Brothers of Brass, DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: Zebroids, Mr. Pacman, The Half Hearts, Ladies Night
When: Saturday, 11.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Integrity w/Limbwrecker, Victim of Fire and Clusterfux
When: Saturday, 11.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Houndmouth w/Kyle Emerson
When: Saturday, 11.9, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Sunday | November 10

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Pile, photo by Elisabeth Fuchsia

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: FUTUREBIRDS w/Rowboat and Paul DeHaven
When: Sunday, 11.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | November 11

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

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.

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Aquabats, photo courtesy the artists

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: RAREBYRD$, Staple (WI), Gone Full Heathen, Heathen Burial and Denizens of the Deep
When: Monday, 11.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Ulthar w/Nightfell, Malum Mortuus and Saeva
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Decide Today (ex-Realicide), Watabou, Church Fire and Techno Allah
When: Monday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Tuesday | November 12

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Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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The Coathangers, photo by Jeff Forney

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: MONO w/Bell Witch
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s

What: The Get Up Kids w/Kevin Devine and The Whiffs
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Mr. Phylzzz w/Simulators, Church Van and Moon Pussy
When: Wednesday, 11.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Best Shows in Denver 09/12/19 – 09/18/19

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Summer Cannibals perform at Lost Lake on September 13, photo by Jason Quigley

Thursday | September 12

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Sheer Mag circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Dub Trio, photo by William Felch

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

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Strand of Oaks, photo by Alysse Gafkajen

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: Day of the Green Fish: Emerald Siam, Pale Sun, No Gossip In Braille, Wild Call, Kilonova and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Really a showcase for some of Denver’s greatest practitioners of darkly atmospheric rock from the post-punk, shoegaze, tribal drone and psychedelic underground.

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.

Sunday | September 16

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Altas, photo by Evan Semoìn

What: RETIFest: Los Mocochetes, iZCALLi, Roka Hueka, El Cro, Altas, Sierra Leon, 2MX2, Modulor, Puete Libre
When: Sunday, 09.15, 10 a.m.
Where: Mile High Flea Market
Why: This is sort of an all day festival featuring some of Denver’s best bands whose membership is largely of Latinx extraction from the psychedelic funk band Los Mocochetes, hard rock group iZCALLi, experimental post-rock powerhouse Altas and hip-hop crew 2MX2.

Monday | September 16

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Lower Dens, photo by Torso

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

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GRLwood, photo by Mickie Winters

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.

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Hatchie, photo by Alex Wall

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.

Wednesday | September 18

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Torche, photo by Dan Almasy

What: Kælan Mikla (Iceland), No Gossip in Braille, French Kettle Station and Shadows Tranquil
When: Wednesday, 09.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Kælan Mikla is an Icelandic post-punk band whose desperate vocals paired with lush, brooding bass and synth tracks are an entrancing contrast. Definitely for fans of Tollund Men.

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.

Best Shows in Denver 05/16/19 – 05/22/19

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Tav Falco’s Panther Burns performs at Lion’s Lair on May 18. Photo by Klaus Pichler

Thursday | May 16

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Johnny Marr, photo by Nial Lea

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

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Calpurnia, photo by Pooneh Ghana

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: Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and The Velveteers
When: Friday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Jenny Lewis w/Karl Blau
When: Friday, 05.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Mishawaka Amphitheatre

What: The Beeves (album release) w./Augustus, Nate Cook and Meeting House
When: Friday, 05.17, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Denver Hex Pre-Party: Muscle Beach and Church Fire
When: Friday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Saturday | May 18

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R A R E B Y R D $, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Calpurnia w/Slow Caves
When: Saturday, 05.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre

What: Kirin J. Callinan w/Jorge Elbrecht and French Kettle Station
When: Saturday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Time (FL), TetraKroma, Atonal Stimulant
When: Saturday, 05.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Sutphin (KS), TWINK, Felony Charge, Tuck Knee and No Sign
When: Saturday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery

What: Proud Souls Backyard BBQ feat. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Zeparella the All-Female Zeppelin Powerhouse, Saddle of Southern Darkness and New Ben Franklins
When: Saturday, 05.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

What: Cub Sport w/Minor Poet and Modern Suspects
When: Saturday, 05.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Monday | May 20, 2019

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Xiu Xiu, photo by Andrea Petrovicova

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.

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Christine and The Queens, photo by Suffo Moncloa

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: Omni w/Vic N’ The Narwhals
When: Monday, 05.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Lord Buffalo w/Palehorse/Palerider, Matriarch and Shadows Tranquil
When: Monday, 05.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Tuesday | May 21

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The Twilight Sad, photo by Debi Del Grande

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: Hyperdontia, Mortiferum, Spectral Voice and Of Feather and Bone
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera

What: Florence + The Machine: The High as Hope Tour 2019 w/Christine and the Queens
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: Camp Cope w/An Horse and Oceanator
When: Tuesday, 05.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Wednesday | May 22

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Radkey, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

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The Faint, photo by Bill Sitzmann

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.

What: Rhett Miller of The Old 97’s w/Anthony Ruptak
When: Wednesday, 05.22, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater