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 01/03/20 – 01/07/20

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Eyebeams It Means Trouble cover. Eyebeams performs at Rhinoceropolis on January 4, 2020

Friday | January 3

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

What: Day of Jubilee: R A R E B Y R D $
When: Friday, 1.3, 6 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Day of Jubilee is a First Friday event at The People’s Building in Aurora, Colorado. Tonight’s proceedings include live music at 7 p.m. with R A R E B Y R D $. R A R E B Y R D $ is a hip-hop group from Denver. Its two MCs, Key~Lady and KoKoLa, combine swagger and soul, inspiration and heartbreak into an alchemical musical experience. Their beats bring together gangsta rap’s mastery of bass sculpting, exploratory synth experiments and hazy, hypnotic drones with organic, Afro-Cuban rhythms. R A R E B Y R D $ ranges widely in the subject matter of its lyrics from the playfully earthy to the emotionally deep and transcendent but always with the spirit of inviting you into that private world with a welcoming emotional intimacy rare in a live performance.

What: Joshua Trinidad Trio (Joshua Trinidad, Joe Wirtz and Gordon Koch)
When: Friday, 1.3, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Spangalang Brewery
Why: Joshua Trinidad and his trio typically blast mind-altering free jazz with spirited play and great musical chemistry stirring the emotions to elevated levels.

What: Jacket of Spiders, Terminals, Lux Hearse, Denizens of the Deep
When: Friday, 1.3, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

Saturday | January 4

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Church Fire (pictured: Shannon Webber), photo by Tom Murphy

What: Eyebeams album release w/96 Ponies, Vampire Squids From Hell and Slugger
When: Saturday, 1.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Eyebeams is releasing its second album It Means Trouble. The bright, languid psychedelia of the record ranges far from what we’ve come to expect from that loose genre of the past decade. It’s as though lead vocalist/guitarist Suzi Allegra absorbed all the influences that have manifested in recent music but long before when she was growing up and used it as a launching point into emotional outer space. The songs seem to explore issues of anxiety, fears, existential frustrations, feeling perpetually dreaming and wishing rather than doing and ending on a note of learning to calm the mind as a place from which to figure out what you really feel, what you really want and maybe how to actually get there.

What: Bands Against the Ban: Church Fire, Married a Dead Man, Hate Minor and Rebel Girl Productions
When: Saturday, 1.4, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Since members of the Senate are trying to have Roe Vs. Wade revisited with aims of overturning legal abortion in a country not actually founded by the Christian version of the Taliban, it will be necessary for people to voice their desire not to live in Medieval Europe again. And this show featuring some of Denver’s most interesting bands is a benefit in the struggle against the forces of reaction. This event is a benefit for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and was organized by Megan Kelley of darkwave band Married a Dead Man and David Pereira of noise rockers Hate Minor. Local experimental dance/darkwave band Church Fire will headline and embody a spirit of resistance with its own music and burlesque troupe Rebel Girl Productions will bring its own performance unique in that realm of expression as well.

What: Redivider album release w/Coastal Wives, Corsicana, False Report
When: Saturday, 1.4, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Helleborus w/Amdusias, Belhor and Throne
When: Saturday, 1.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Dovekins reunion w/River Arkansas and Shenandoah Davis
When: Saturday, 1.4, 7 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

Sunday | January 5

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Caustic Soda, Feeling Old (WA), Broken Lawn Chairs and Sliver
When: Sunday, 1.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Sliver’s Chris Mercer wanted to revisit his folk punk roots “not shit like Andrew Jackson Jihad, Pat the Bunny or Camper Van Beethoven, the good shit like Days N’ Daze.” Fortunately his bandmates convinced him that playing with Boulder-based noise punk band Caustic Soda, folk-inflected indie rock punks Feeling Old from Seattle and Broken Lawn Chairs, an actual folk punk band, from Castle Rock. Sliver fortunately won’t torture us with Mercer’s idea of what “real” folk punk sounds like and might actually be enjoyable this time too.

Monday | January 6

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Equine, photo by Tom Murphy

What: lovelesslust w/Equine and Gila Teen
When: Monday, 1.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: loveless lust is a mix of synth pop and industrial and thus a good fit with two bands from Denver that don’t fit neatly into any musical milieu either. Gila Teen is the hybrid sad boy post-punk/emo band we all need in the world right now.

What: The King Khan & BBQ Show w/Colfax Speed Queen
When: Monday, 1.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge.

Tuesday | January 7

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King Khan, photo by Miron Zownir

What: The King Khan & BBQ Show w/Colfax Speed Queen
When: Tuesday, 1.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: King Khan has been making psychedelic garage rock and evolving the art form since before it became hip again and again in the 2000s from back when he was a member of The Spaceshits in Kukamongas in the late 90s. With The King Khan & BBQ Show he and fellow Spaceshit Mark Sultan blended doo wop and garage punk and were in the same circles of likeminded acts Black Lips. Khan has also been involved in King Khan & The Shrines, but the BBQ show is like some late 60s psychedelic soul revue updated for the modern era. Denver-based Colfax Speed Queen will be a great pairing with its own electrifying live show of noisy psychedelic punk.

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 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

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Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

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Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

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Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

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SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

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GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

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HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

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Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

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Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

Best Shows in Denver 8/9/19 – 8/14/19

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Rolling Stones perform at Mile High Stadium on August 10. Photo by Dave Hogan.

Friday | August 9

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo by Ian Collins

What: The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel
When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.

What: The Yellow Rake 15 year anniversary night 1 w/Simulators, Moon Pussy, Charly Fasano, Brian Polk and Karl Christian Krumpholz
When: Friday, 08.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Yellow Rake is a Denver-based literary and culture magazine that is celebrating a remarkable fifteen years in existence with performances from local bands Simulators and Moon Pussy and writers and artists Charly Fasano, Karl Christian Krumpholz and Yellow Rake founder Brian Polk. The celebration will run two nights beginning tonight at Mutiny Information Café.

What: Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word
When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tracks
Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.

Saturday | August 10

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This Will Destroy You, photo by Veronika Reinert

What: This Will Destroy You w/Brin
When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.

What: Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour
When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mile High Stadium
Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.

What: GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.

What: The Yellow Rake 15th Anniversary Night 2: SPELLS, Black Dots, Muscle Beach and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second night of The Yellow Rake’s celebration of fifteen years of existence takes place at the Hi-Dive with some of Denver’s best punk and post-hardcore bands.

What: Glasss Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.

12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat

Sunday | August 11

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Glasss Fest Day 2
When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above for Glasss Fest.

1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
4:30 Wngdu
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
9:30 Sadbug
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set

Tuesday | August 13

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Plume Varia, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.

What: Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.

What: Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.

Wednesday | August 14

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Kamasi Washington, photo by Durimel

What: Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington
When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.

Best Shows in Denver 06/20/19 – 06/26/19

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Mitski performs at Red Rocks with Death Cab for Cutie on Tuesday, June 25, photo by Bao Ngo

Thursday | June 20

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Future Punx, photo courtesy the artist

What: Glasss Presents the Final Speakeasy Series Season 3: Adam Selene, Abeasity Jones and MYTHirst
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final edition of the Speak Easy Series not just Season 3 but overall. Each date has been a well-curated showcase of Denver’s underground experimental music underground with a reach covering a lot of that territory in a way few if any other events have in recent years. Tonight’s show includes some of the local scene’s hip-hop and production stars as named above.

What: SCAC with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Thursday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is the long-running, legendary Americana post-punk band with a theatrical flair and costumes to enhance a strong visual presence on stage. Joining them tonight is Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Also favoring matching outfits in the vein of influential Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters, the group is fronted and lead by one of rock’s great songwriters and guitarists. Kid Congo Powers brought great finesse, inventiveness and a keen ear for melody and dynamics to groups like Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

What: Mystery Lights w/Future Punx and Slynger
When: Thursday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mystery Lights is an odd and fascinating mix of retro synth bands and proto-punk. Give its new record Too Much Tension! a listen. Like early Zen Guerilla but weirder. Future Punx is also on tour from Brooklyn with its synth funk punk akin to Les Savy Fav and The Epoxies but with more synth than the former and less pop punk than the latter. Its own 2019 album The World Is A Mess (which includes an almost brooding cover of “The World’s A Mess (It’s In My Kiss)” by X) sure does sound like some people from the future looking back on the Twentieth Century New Wave and punk era the way some indie rockers have looked back on Laurel Canyon, classic rock and 80s glam rock for inspiration and cherry picked sounds to assemble in idiosyncratic fashion.

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Hembree, photo by Stephen Shireman

What: Bloxx, Hembree and Warbly Jets
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Bloxx is a four piece from London whose sound makes one think its members evolved out of the music that defined its early youth and rediscovered 90s alternative rock and mulched it all in favor of a charmingly melodic, fuzzy emo-esque songwriting style reminiscent of newer bands like Culture Abuse. Kansas City’s Hembree rides that line between post-punk and synth pop well and its 2019 album House On Fire is filled with darkly luminous yet urgent dance songs.

Friday | June 21

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Nick Murphy, photo by Willy Lukatis

What: Gasoline Lollipops., Dust Heart and Grayson County Burn Ban
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Andy Thomas has been a fixture of Denver music for close to two decades as a member of bands like Ghost Buffalo, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer, Only Thunder and, more recently, Lost Walks. Around a decade ago he started releasing music under his own name and as Andy Thomas Dust Heart and exploring different facets of his own songwriting. He is now releasing music as simply Dust Heart and tonight he releases his single “Plastic Walls” and “The Last Gap.” Thomas’ command of the musical vocabulary of Americana and punk has long been established. With the new material the songwriter delves further into something more akin to gritty power pop with charged guitar riffs and his always emotionally resonant vocal delivery. He’ll be performing the Punk Is Dad benefit tonight at the Oriental Theater with other like-minded local acts. Look for our interview with Thomas coming soon.

What: Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker w/Beacon
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nick Murphy announced in 2016 that he would drop his long-running stage name of Chet Faker with the release of his next album, that being 2019’s Run Fast Sleep Naked. The Australian singer and songwriter’s mixture of R&B and downtempo electronic pop struck a chord in the first half decade of his career so far and his new album is the result of some wanderlust and making the music and putting together ideas as he went along. The album is a mixed bag but sometimes such material translates better live than as a loose concept album and you can see for yourself tonight as Murphy transforms the Ogden into a more intimate environment in which his songs can shine in the interpretation of the recorded music.

Saturday | June 22

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Oh, Rose at Treefort Music Fest, photo courtesy the artist

What: Yeasayer w/Oh, Rose
When: Saturday, 06.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington has been making C86-esque pop songs for around half a decade and garnering some buzz for its emotionally warm and ebullient yet introspective songwriting. Fans of Shop Assistants and perhaps Black Tambourine will find much to like about Oh, Rose in general but especially it’s forthcoming album While My Father Sleeps due out on August 23, 2019 on Park The Van Records. The group is opening for Yeasayer whose genre bending sound makes psychedelic rock, non-Western rhythms and prog work well together by not bothering to recognize a boundary between all of that. The result is what might be considered “indie funk” but with a more imaginative live presentation of the music than those terms together might suggest.

What: Alphabeat Soup #41: Rico Eva (Riq Squavs), MYTHirst, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes and Love Cosmic Love
When: Saturday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: With the demise of Deer Pile, Alphabeat Soup, the periodic showcase of some of Denver’s most forward-thinking electronic music producers, is finding a new home at Thought//Forms.

What: TRVE DadFest
When: Saturday, 06.22, 1 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: TRVE Brewing and Dad Fest combined forces for this event to bring a day and night of stars of extreme, doom and experimental (and combinations thereof) metal from Denver and beyond. But as per usual for DadFest, there will music well outside that like ethereal soundscaper Midwife, Denver noise legends Page 27 and beat-driven noise auteur Data Rainbow. Our pick for the later heavy stuff if one must choose? BIG|BRAVE’s 2019 album A Gaze Among Them is a towering locomotive of driving beats that transcends narrow concepts of doom, noise and industrial. But, really, everything on the bill is worth your time—not something one can say about every festival, tastes differing. The event happens at two venues, schedule listed below.

Hi-Dive Schedule (upstairs and downstairs as indicated)
Up: Dreadnought 7:50-8:10
Down: Noctambulist 8:15-8:35
Up: In the Company of Serpents 8:40-9:00
Down: Vale 9:05-9:25
Up: Midwife 9:30-9:50
Down: Of Feather and Bone 9:55-10:15
Up: BIG|BRAVE 10:20-10:50
Up: Wake 11:05-11:25
Up: Vanum 11:40 – finis

Mutiny Schedule
Lost Relics 2:00-2:20
New Standards Men 2:35-2:55
Chair of Torture 3:10-3:30
A Light Among Many 3:45-4:05
Livid 4:20-4:40
Whilt 4:55-5:05
909 5:20-5:40
Flesh Buzzard 5:55-6:05
Heathen Burial 6:20-6:40
Data Rainbow 6:55-7:05
Page 27 7:20-7:40

Sunday | June 23

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Howard Jones circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Vulture Wake w/Joy Subtraction and State Drugs
When: Sunday, 06.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A Vulture Wake is a sort of melodic punk super group including Chad Price of ALL and Drag the River) and members of Lagwagon and Real McKenzies. But you won’t be getting some odd pop punk or melodic hardcore redo, it’s songwriting goes a bit beyond all of that with technical proficiency used with imaginative and evocative guitar riffs. Joy Subtraction doesn’t play much these days but its punk is borderline post-punk and its sharp take on social and political issues lacks is way more clever and insightful than that of at least two or three other bands. But not just any two or three other bands.

What: Howard Jones w/Men Without Hats and All Hail the Silence
When: Sunday, 06.23, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Howard Jones is a pioneer of synth pop and one who learned to use difficult and temperamental equipment to compose some of the biggest hits of the 1980s like “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What Is Love” and “Like to Get to Know You Well.” While for some these may be light pop songs Jones’ voice expressive and highly emotional deliver stood out even back then in the heyday of that music. As a live performer now Jones is surprisingly forceful and charismatic with an expertly crafted light show whose music seems prescient considering the direction synthwave and chillwave has developed.

Monday | June 24

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Ginger Root, photo by Seannie Bryan

What: Ginger Root w/Oko Tygra and Hi-Fi Gentry
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: As Ginger Root, Cameron Lew has been making lush downtempo synth pop that sets itself very much apart with an attention to the low end. It gives his songs a sonic depth and flow that credibly gives a nod to 70s dance music and soul. Frankly, some filmmakers who are trying to nail that 70s and 80s vibe should hit up Lew to score and/or music supervise their projects because more than most people making music now who probably wasn’t alive at that time, he gets it and it’s not just having access to the vintage gear. But listen for yourself to his new singles “Weather” and “Slump” here.

What: Stevie Wonder
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Stevie Wonder needs no introduction as a legend of soul, funk, R&B and jazz. He’s performing at this Red Rocks show as a fundraiser for SeriesFest.

Tuesday | June 25

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Mitski, photo by Bao Ngo

What: Death Cab for Cutie w/Mitski
When: Tuesday, 06.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Mitski Miyawaki recently announced that after her fall live bookings she was taking a hiatus from the grinding, album-release-cycle-and-touring of the music industry that allows little time for cultivating one’s life and creativity separate from its considering for delivering up to an audience in a form they are expecting. Miyawaki has had a respectable career and body of work up to now including her 2018 album Be the Cowboy. The latter pushed her songwriting to new heights of creativity in telling stories, self-examination and soundscaping. And a deep level of emotional honesty. With an album as great Be the Cowboy where does a songwriter go without repeating oneself while under the gun to produce something more quickly than one’s brain is prepared to deliver? With any luck she’ll find the time away from the cultural realm that Hunter S. Thompson famously critiqued before it got as bad as it is now by writing: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good [people] die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Wherever Miyawaki lands we wish her good fortune and happiness while hoping she comes back with a new set of music that continues her legacy of great songs.

Death Cab for Cutie is a band that helped to define and shape what “indie rock” has meant, sounded like and looked like since at least the late 90s. Now that the group has been fairly commercially successful for several years at this point its songwriting may lack some of the urgency and poignancy of its earlier output at least the band has a few decent songs with every album since the turn of the decade.

Wednesday | June 26

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J. Hamilton Isaacs, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Harry Tuft
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park – Shady Grove
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of bluegrass and folk in Denver having run the Denver Folklore Center in the 60s through the 70s and as a founder of Swallow Hill. He seldomly performs but when he does his interpretations of other people’s songs and standards is always interesting and his originals worthy as well. As a champion of music for decades, Tuft ironically didn’t have many chances to play his own music until his 80s and he does so with emotional power and grace.

What: Die ANGEL, Xambuca, Equine, Ian Douglas Moore and J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Die ANGEL is Ilpo Väisänen of noise/drone legends Pan Sonic and Dirk Dresselhaus of avant-guitar group Schneider TM. With Die ANGELthe duo explore the kind of noise, ambient, sound environment composition that is an experience in itself in flowing sounds, tones and rumbling low end. It is a physical as well as a psychological experience that will engulf the room at Thought//Forms. Xambuca is a San Francisco-based modular synth and production artist who will bring his own depth of sonic field to the proceedings. Denver’s Equine is Kevin Richards whose avant-garde guitar work has been part of the Mile High City’s underground for nearly two decades as a member of weirdo, jazz/noise post-hardcore band Motheater and blackened noise duo Epileptinomicon. J. Hamilton Isaacs is one of the local music world’s champions of modular synth music as well as a noteworthy artist in his own right producing entrancing (no pun intended for those in the know) synth/dance music that blurs the line between ambient and more academic synth experiments.

What: No Vacation w/Okey Dokey and Hello, Mountain
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No Vacation’s take on surf rock-inflected dream pop is truly elegant and transporting like they’re able to relax and let whatever is in them speak through their collective efforts. Of course a lot of practice and playing together was involved but the band makes it look effortless and easy.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 5/31/19 – 06/5/19

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Judas Priest performs at Broadmoor World Arena on June 5

Friday | May 31

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Big Freedia circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Hieroglyphics w/Rap Noir, Stoney Hawk, S.A.V.E.1, Mike Wird, LoS, Stonewall BLVD
When: Friday, 05.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Hieroglyphicsfrom Oakland, California and have long been one of the most influential groups in underground hip-hop. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure and the four members of Souls of Mischief (Phesto, A-Plus, Opio nd Tajai), Hieroglyphics operate in a way that’s classic, old school hip-hop, composing using a sort of free form jazz style with sampling and vocals and more experimental production and the feel of a 70s exploitation film but one where maybe the music was made by a Gil Scott-Heron and Lee Scratch Perry collaboration. This show will include all original members so you’ll get to see some of the sharpest and most deft wordplay in the game.

What: Chromeo, Thievery Corporation, Big Freedia, Adeline, Peanut Butter Wolf
When: Friday, 05.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Electro soul stars Chromeo seem to bring their bombastic, weirdo new wave pop to Red Rocks every summer and consistently bring artists that will push their fans’ collective music brains beyond their current bounds. This time basically co-headlining with downtempo dub duo Thievery Corporation. More on the outside of the loose realm of music in which the aforementioned operate are Big Freedia and Peanut Butter Wolf. The former is an icon of New Orleans sissy bounce. Which is a really abstract way of saying that Big Freedia is a charismatic and highly energetic performer whose performances blur the line between sissy bounce, noisy industrial dance and a kind of what might be called punk dub. It’s impossible to ignore and may alienate some people with how strange it is to some sensibilities but also one of the most powerful things you’ll get to see at Red Rocks this summer. Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of experimental hip-hop/electronic music/post-punk imprint Stones Throw, which has regularly issued some of the most fascinating music of the past 23 years.

Saturday | June 1

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Dead Milkmen, photo by Jessica Kourkounis, 2014

What: Goth Prom 4 featuring Assemblage 23, DJs Kilgore, Slave1 and Dutch Confetti
When: Saturday, 06.01, 5 p.m.
Where: EXDO Events Center
Why: This year’s edition of Goth Prom will be headlined by EBM/Future Pop legend Assemblage 23. The Seattle-based group has managed to consistently make emotionally honest and compelling music in a realm of industrial dance that is often basically unconscious self-parody that aims to be edgy and dark but misses the mark more often than not. At least Assemblage 23 songs are well-written and seem more aimed to evoke a headspace and mood rather than adherence to tropes.

What: Dead Milkmen w/Granny Tweed
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Dead Milkmen were an irreverent punk band from a time when a lot of punk and hardcore was taking itself entirely too seriously. But Dead Milkmen stretched the boundaries of 80s punk by observing few conventions beyond an iconoclastic spirit.

What: Painting With Statue, Echo Beds, DJ Pop CTRL and Animal / object
When: Saturday, 06.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Painting With Statue is a trio from California that makes noise via what sounds like analog field recording manipulation, sampling and raw low end and white noise. Animal / object is Colorado’s premier avant-garde spontaneous composition band. Who knows what DJ Pop CTRL will be this time other than weirdo folk pop. Echo Beds rarely plays now due to work on its new record so here’s a now rare chance to see the organic-industrial, noisy post-punk legends in the flesh and steel.

What: Places Back Home w/Spirettes, Everignite, Random Temple
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Peanut Butter Wolf w/DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Esmé Patterson w/Carsie Blanton
When: Saturday, 06.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Leavitt Pavillion

Sunday | June 2

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Universal Devils, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Summitus Kitharlogus
When: Sunday, 06.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A left of field guitar mini fest with performances by or featuring: Weasel Tears, Equine, Amos Helvey, Adam Selene, Lepidoptera, Farrrell Lowe, Joe Mills, Sean Patrick Faling-sonic friction guitarworks, Prayer Hands, Death In Space, Saduwu, Brother Saturn, Sean Mlekush, Space Geist, Bradley Franlik Santulli, Broken Guitar Ensemble, BentonamO, bios+a+ic, Night Grinder.

What: Whiskey Orphans, Slow Poisoner and Universal Devils
When: Sunday, 06.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Whiskey Orphans sounds like the name suggests. Fortunately, that means more than hard drinking Americana. There is also a touch of sensitivity and wistfulness underlining the sparse melodies. Universal Devils is Tricky Dick Wickett’s one-man metallic singer songwriter project and more odd and original than those mere words could convey.

Monday | June 3

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KEN mode, photo by Brenna Faris

What: KEN mode w/Abrams, BleakHeart and Ten Foot Beast
When: Monday, 06.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: KEN mode is a metallic, noisy, post-hardcore band whose name is a shortened version of “Kill Everyone Now mode” and in terms of blowing up a groove and cutting a riff into relentlessly jagged pieces, the band has done plenty of that in the more absurdly humorous over-the-top abstract sense. It’s latest album Loved from 2018 has song titles that read like chapters in the diary of a nihilistic misanthrope. For example: “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” “The Illusion of Dignity,” “Learning To Be Too Cold” and “Fractures in Adults.” Given the title of the record one has to respect the dark sense of humor informing all of it including the creepy album cover. Fans of Unsane and Jesus Lizard will find much to like here.

Tuesday | June 4

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Tuesday, 06.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Ivywild School Gymnasium
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, the long-running alt-country act from Denver, brings its Vaudeville west and vibrantly emotional and lively performance to Colorado Springs along with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, among others, and with the Pink Monkey Birds he brings a lifetime of stories, insight and masterful songwriting to making his own music with a body of work as worthy as anything else in which he’s been involved.

Wednesday | June 5

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Snails and Oysters circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Snails and Oysters and Little Fyodor solo
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This month’s editon of Weird Wednesday maintains peak weirdness with Gothsta who does odd keytar pop songs. Then again, if keytar is involved it’s going to be strange but that just enhances the bizarro nature of the music anyway. Plus some legit keytar covers of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear from her unless you’ve been listening to The Space Lady and not even then. Snails and Oysters is Joe Mill’s solo avant-garde/ambient guitar project in which his combines textures and moods to weave a unique soundscape. Little Fyodor is kinda King Weirdo in Denver and has been for decades going from tape collage/manipulation project Walls of Genius to Little Fyodor and Babushka Band. When a lot of punk is fairly conformist, Fyodor is decidedly not that with a visual presence and songwriting diversity and acumen that is so punk it should be its own subgenre with a clever name you won’t read here because Fyodor is also fairly difficult to pigeonhole as merely punk.

What: Judas Priest w/Uriah Heep
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Broadmoor World Arena
Why: Judas Priest started in 1969, a year after Black Sabbath formed. But unlike the latter Priest came into its own shortly before the release of its debut album, 1974’s Rocka Rolla. By then iconic vocalist Rob Halford brought his elemental, wide-ranging singing to the band and guitarist Glenn Tipton joined and with K.K. Downing gave the group its signature two guitar sound that gives its music a dynamism and depth that has been influential on many heavy metal and hard rock bands since. After the debut album, Judas Priest embarked on a series of genre-defining records starting with 1976’s majestic Sad Wings of Destiny. The group weathered the manufactured scandals of the 80s when would-be censors targeted the band, and a broad range of other artists, for the corruption of youth and suicide. Judas Priest’s often remarkably thoughtful and in recent years as heavy metal has become embraced by a more mainstream audience the group’s vivid storytelling and energy is finding an audience with a new generation of fans.

Opening the show is Uriah Heep who are arguably the progenitors of a style of melodic boogie rock and hard psychedelia that has been heavily influential on a younger generation of heavy metal musicians. It, too, started up in 1969 and operated in a similar milieu of music as the aforementioned Sabbath as well as Deep Purple. Like the latter, Uriah Heep had a prominent keyboard presence in its songwriting and no strangers to songs about wizards, the forces of evil and the life of a hard touring band. But more so than some of the other bands mentioned above, Uriah Heep clearly has a foot in English folk rock that informs its song structures and vocalist Bernie Shaw’s evocative cadence. The group hasn’t done any major touring in years so this is a rare chance to see them live.

Best Shows in Denver 1/24/19 – 1/30/19

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hackedepicciotto performs January 30 with DBUK at Lost Lake. Photo by Sylvia Steinhäuser

Thursday | January 24, 2019

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant w/Dead Pay Rent, Mr. Atomic
When: Thursday, 01.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Meet the Giant, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps entirely by plan, has drawn on both 80s and 90s sounds at a time when the various aesthetics of those decades are firmly back in vogue. Downtempo, brooding post-punk, the rhythms of sample-driven composition and emotionally rich vocals make for a band that sounds instantly like something beyond having an appeal to nostalgia while drawing on a hint of that. The group spent nearly a decade honing its songcraft and chemistry as a unit and more than a small amount of the intimacy that comes out of such extended wood shedding comes through in the music like you’re getting to experience that connection that friends have who can share much with each other and be real. Many bands put on some kind of ego-driven facade fueled by a kind of borrowed rock and roll myth bravado. Meet the Giant comes about its rock and roll power honestly and with tender emotions laid bare, which is always more compelling than tough guy strutting any day of the week. Do yourself a favor and see them or at least check out their remarkable 2018 self-titled debut.

Who: DSTR, eHpH, Cutworm
When: Thursday, 01.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: DSTR is Destroid, a project of Daniel Meyer who some may know more for his work as half of influential EBM band Haujobb. Distorted vocals, imaginative soundscaping, strong, pulsing beats and menacing, glitch-hazed atmospherics. Denver’s eHpH has been making an interesting hybrid of industrial rock and dark EBM of their own but refreshingly unlike any of their peers in the Mile High City. Cutworm is a bit of a left field choice for a bill like this if its 2018 Swallow EP is any indication with its sound being unfruitful in placing in a particular genre box. Its sounds range from modern downtempo darkwave to especially beautifully moody IDM. Live, though, Cutworm definitely brings the industrial edge into the production.

Friday | January 25, 2019

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Klaus Dafoe, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Red Tack, George Cessna and Blindrunner
When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Red Tack is the solo, somewhat weirdo singer-songwriter project of Ted Thacker who should be remembered widely for being in 90s alternative rock band Baldo Rex and later as a member of indiepop band Veronica. Whatever his pedigree, Thacker has remained one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and personalities. George Cessna is the son of Slim Cessna of Auto Club fame. The younger Cessna’s own work is both not too surprising considering his father’s legendary musical legacy but he is far from a carbon copy and his use of raw sound and atmosphere in his recordings and his wide ranging musical style in a broader realm of Americana and weirdo folk is noteworthy on its own merits.

Who: faim (record release), Line Brawl, Euth, Moral Law and Targets
When: Friday, 01.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Hardcore band faim is releasing its latest seven inch through Convulse Records and celebrating the occasion with a few of Denver’s and Wyoming’s best hardcore acts.

Who: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2
When: Friday, 01.25, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Tobe Hooper passed away in 2017 leaving behind a legacy of unusual and influential films beginning, in terms of impact, with 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie so graphically violent and darkly disturbing for the time, because it felt more like a documentary than the mostly tame horror cinema up to its release. In 1986 he released the sequel as a horrifying kind of parody. Between that, the 1982 Poltergeist film, 1985’s space vampire spectacle Lifeforce and numerous other films, Hooper’s unique cinematic vision will be celebrated for years to come including this month-long or so series hosted by Theresa Mercado kicking off this night on the director’s birthday.

Who: Flaural, Panther Martin and The Eye & The Arrow
When: Friday, 01.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The kind of line up you want to see more often in the realm of indie rock with Flaurel’s psychedelic pop, Panther Martin’s visionary lo-fi rock and The Eye & The Arrow’s re-working of Americana into something we’re not hearing ad infinitum on playlists and radio stations with a fairly vanilla stream of content.

Who: Klaus Dafoe, New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Klaus Dafoe seems to be a sort of instrumental rebirth of late 90s to mid-2000s indie math rock but deconstructed to be more fractured and potentially more interesting than some of the bands mining that neo-mathcore/emo sound of late. Simulators are the kind of post-punk that carves out the overtly atmospheric quality for stark contrasts of tone and angular rhythms that somehow still flow without getting splintery and yet, despite that intentional minimalism, bursting with Bryon Parker’s raw emotional vocals.

Saturday | January 26, 2019

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Hippo Campus w/Now Now
When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m.
Where: The Ogden
Why: Hippo Campus has been writing finely crafted pop songs since its early days and challenging itself to make each record reflect not just personal and creative growth, qualities you’d want in any band worth your continued attention, but an evolving approach to larger cultural narratives. The group’s 2018 album Bambi offers no pat answers or platitudes. It is a record brimming with questions instead of the instant opinion/instant expert tendency that permeates our culture from the way people interact and present themselves on social media and how one must conduct oneself in various contexts lest one be thought indecisive rather than recognizing and learning to identify nuance—not in a way to placate all sides but in order to avoid the hubris of being unaware of one’s own limitations of knowledge and comprehension. It can be enjoyed as just a solid pop album but there’s a great deal of dimensionality and content for anyone wanting to listen deeper.

Who: A Celebration of 1/26 with Weird Al Qaida, Gregory Ego and Mermalair
When: Saturday, 01.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Weird Al Quaida is an avant-garde punk/noise/psychedelic band from Denver that doesn’t perform often. Definitely for fans of the more rock end of Sun City Girls.

Who: Space Jail, Snaggletoothe and Claudzilla
When: Saturday, 01.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Space Jail might be described as a psychedelic synth band. Snaggletoothe as psych prog. Claudzilla as a one-person keytar rock weirdo extravaganza. All in likely the only venue in Aurora where you might see music anywhere within he realm of these bands.

Who: Soulless Maneater, Sliver, Endless Nameless, Fox Moses, Equine
When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Soulless Maneater is somewhere between the best death rock band in Denver and a moodily creepy doom band. Sliver is “Diet Nirvana.” Fox Moses sounds like a gloomier neo-grunge band and all the better for that. Endless Nameless sounds like a hybrid of math rock, shoegaze and post-rock—not that those are mutually exclusive concepts. Equine is the avant-guitar and synth solo project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater guitarist Kevin Richards.

Sunday | January 27, 2019

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Sumac, photo by Anne Godoneo

Who: Sumac, Divide and Dissolve, Tashi Dorij
When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Aaron Turner’s guitar work and songwriting in partnership with fellow musicians has helped to define some of the boundaries of the more experimental, heavy music. As the leader of Hydra Head Records he also encouraged the development of that music throughout the 90s and 2000s. As a member of Isis, Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer, to name a few projects, Turner has crafted consistently interesting material that is undeniably within the realm of metal but with an ear for abstracting sounds into noise and then back together into coherent expressions of emotion outside the realm of standard songwriting in the genre. With Sumac this may be especially so in particular the band’s 2018 album Love In Shadow where the trio takes the concept of love at its most primordial level pre-marketing device, pre-narrowing the concept down to a relatively trite, or at least limited, word casually thrown around. Also on this tour is Bhutanese guitarist Tashi Dorij whose noisescapes could be considered loosely as avant-garde but also seem to contain a kind of personal ritualistic expression. See his own 2018 album gàng lu khau chap ‘mi gera gi she an example of the sorts of music you’re in for during his set. Since Dorij and Turner have collaborated on at least one record maybe you’ll get to see some of that this night as well.

Tuesday | January 29, 2019

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The Maykit circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nadia Bolz-Weber – The Shameless Book Tour
When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover — Colfax
Why: Nadia Bolz-Weber is the activist and Lutheran pastor whose 2014 memoir Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner & saint traced her personal growth from a kind of bohemian comedian to sober theology student and pastor. The book, brimming with irreverent humor and sarcasm as well as plenty of illuminating insights into human psychology, whether you’re Christian or not, struck a chord with a fairly sizable audience. In humanizing challenges many people face, Bolz-Weber made a good case for how we can embrace an expanded sense of our own best selves. In July 2018 left her pastoship of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. Now she is releasing her new book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. As a candid reexamination of “patriarchy, sex, and power” (from the Tattered Cover website), Bolz-Weber will likely further cement her reputation as something of a refreshingly maverick religious thinker and writer.

Who: Big Paleo album release w/Places Back Home, The Maykit and Quentin
When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Denver-based math rock Big Paleo is releasing its, presumably, debut album. One of the opening bands, The Maykit, may not be math rock but its intricate musicianship and songwriting and Max Winne’s indisputably sincere vocal delivery will be a standout of the evening.

Wednesday | January 30, 2019

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Mallrat, photo by Michelle Pitris

Who: Gnash w/Mallrat and Guardin
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Mallrat is Grace Shaw from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Since high school, Shaw has been writing sophisticated pop songs that bring together elements of electronic dance production, hip-hop style beats and the informal structure of modern indie rock—really an ideal synthesis and vehicle for expressing one’s ideas with nuance but a direct emotional quality. Her 2018 EP In The Sky is an interesting blend of contrasts: dusky atmospherics speckled with bright highlights, onomatopoeic cadences and vivid lyrics and soaring, saturated melodies dissolving into introspective minimalism. Headlining the show is Gnash, aka Garrett Nash, who released his debut full-length We on January 11, 2019. Nash made waves with his early breakup EPs and his far better than average beat-driven R&B.

Who: Hackedepicciotto w/DBUK
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hackedepicciotto is a multi-media, experimental music duo comprised of Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke. De Picciotto was one of the founders of the long-running electronic music festival The Love Parade in Berlin. The festival was initiated as celebration of innovative electronic music but also as a subversive kind of demonstration for peace through love and music. Hacke is the bassist for influential industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. The aforementioned couldn’t completely encompass either artist’s work, output and collaborations and it would be worthwhile to explore their work in depth. But with this project the two bring together a set of skills in composition, performance, film making and storytelling. The word “immersive” gets thrown around a lot these days but it definitely applies to a Hackedepicciotto show. It isn’t just that the sound design and visuals and songwriting are striking, they are, it’s also because before it quite became a widely articulated phenomenon, de Picciotto, in her 2013/2015 graphic novel We Are Gypsies now vividly and powerfully captured what it’s like to be noteworthy, internationally renowned artists have to uproot from one’s home and home city of decades due to gentrification. Then, as explored in further detail on the 2016 album Perserverantia and 2017’s Menetekel how the way the world economy functions now globally has not only all but dismantled the way independent artists and not-so-independent artists can live, function and thrive. The albums alone are worthwhile experiences in the listening but the live show is where you truly get to experience a deep emotional manifestation of faith and hope nearly crushed by despair at the state of things supported by a drive to seek what must be better over the horizon. There is no naivete to the work, de Picciotto and Hacke both know they can never really regain what they once had, but a reminder that one’s compulsion to pursue one’s life work can be a beacon through difficult times. The duo’s latest release is the 2018 meditation soundtrack Joy.

Who: The Pink Spiders w/Television Generation and Smile Victoria
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Pink Spiders are a power pop band from Nashville who had a minor hit in 2006 with “Little Razorblade” from their Ric Ocasek-produced album Teenage Graffiti. Smile Victoria sounds like it’s still wearing its Pixies and others 90s alternative music fairly freshly. But not in the neo-grunge kind of way as the trio has more atmosphere and melody than some of its peers tapping into the same era. Television Generation somehow perfectly blends grunge with power pop without sounding like Nirvana or like Cheap Trick gone metal. Is there a bit of sonic DNA in there out of Love Battery and Buzzcocks? Probably but live the band has plenty of grit and emotional darkness to keep it from ever feeling derivative.

Best Shows in Denver 7/26/18 – 8/1/18

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Tarmints (circa 2007) perform at The UMS on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at The Hi-Dive

Thursday | July 26, 2018

 

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Mr. Pacman circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley 
When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.

Who: Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.

Friday | July 27, 2018

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Red Baraat, photo by Mark Jaworski

Who: Red Baraat
When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Clyfford Still Museum
Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.

Who: Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad
When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended.
Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil
When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.

Saturday | July 28, 2018

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Car Seat Headrest, photo by Mikael Beland

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla

Who: Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants
When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m.
Where:The Gothic Theatre
Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.

Tuesday | July 31, 2018

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Weezer, photo by Brendan Walter

Who: Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.

After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.

That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.

Who: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.

Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.

Who: ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.

Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.

Wednesday | August 1, 2018

 

Who: Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.

102 Wires, An Celebration of Atypical Guitar Art Tonight at Bar Max

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Kevin Richards of Equine circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tonight, May 26, 2018, at 5 p.m. (and running until 11:15) several of the Denver area’s most sonically adventurous musicians will assemble in the basement of Bar Max for 102 Wires. The event was organized by Kevin Richards who is known in local underground music circles for his most recent experimental guitar and electronics project Equine, which has been very prolific of late with the release of a handful of 2018 albums so far including White Majick, Der Howling, Equencing and Twins. In years past, Richards brought his knowledge of jazz chord theory to the too-post-hardcore-for-noise rock/too-weird-for-post-hardcore band Motheater, the quasi-performance art Hogsplitter, noise project Epileptinomicon and solo guitar drone band Temples. We recently sent some questions Richards regarding 102 Wires, it’s inspirations, aims and what Richards hows will be the aftermath.

Queen City Sounds: What inspired doing an event like this? Have you seen anything like this before putting the event together? Perhaps one of the late Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra events.

Kevin Richards: I don’t know that I’ve actually seen something quite like this before, although I have heard of somewhat similar festivals. The large ensemble aspect was definitely inspired by Branca and Rhys Chatham. Generally speaking, I was hoping to gather as may atypical guitarists (or guitarists doing something atypical for themselves) in one room with minimal instruction and see what happens. This fest is curated in a form, but has been intentionally fairly hands off as far as what people are bringing to the table. Hopefully this yields surprises for us all.

What will the show look like/be like and what kind of logistics and gear did you need to bring together to make it happen?

I am hoping to have people around the perimeters of the room performing, and the audience in the middle. there may be people performing solo sets, Steve Reich repertoire, original compositions, perhaps some prepared guitar, ambient loops, large ensembles, and some things that even I don’t quite know what they will be like. This should be six hours of guitar-centric musical fascination. As for the gear, I will of course be bringing multiple guitars and amps. We have performers who don’t generally play guitar and so there is a bit of borrowing happening. Logistics wise, this came together much more smoothly than I had anticipated. Max at Bar Max was great about letting us use the space for the event and all of the performers are putting in a decent amount of work to help this thing all come together. So in the end I can barely take credit for this team effort, as it should be.

With a diverse set of talents, skill sets, aesthetics and so forth, did you put any rules on how things will go and if so why so?

]The general concept/rules of the things were one, you must do something either atypical for how the instrument is generally approached, or you had to do something a bit out of your wheelhouse. Two, as much as possible this should be guitar only, so no drums, or other instruments. I think this event will for the most part adhere to both of these rules, with a couple well-reasoned exceptions. I tend to like working within musical restrictions myself as a means to foster creativity, and I was hoping this had a similar effect on others in this setting.

Why did you think bringing together a broad spectrum of musicians and guitars and whatnot would prove interesting?

How could it not? I have a certain love of the creative chaos that this type of gathering could bring. The joy from this will come from all of the things I didn’t anticipate.

What do you hope is the outcome of this show for both the people there and what might happen in post with you and other participants?

I hope that the primary outcome of this show is that we all gather together and enjoy each others company and creativity. I do hope that this gathering spawns other creative endeavors among the participants. Many have never met each other and may not even know the other exists in the same town, so that aspect should foster some interesting encounters at the very least. For the audience, I hope they see something that they have never seen before, and leave rethinking the instrument in some way.

The official schedule of events
Drew Miller 6-6:30
Large ensemble 1 6:30-7:00
Russ Callison 7:00-7:30
Large ensemble 2 7:30-7:45
Julien Miller/ Kevin Richards collaborative set 7:45-8:15
Stakes-8:15-8:35
Vahco Before-Horses 1 minute set 8:35
Sean Patrick Faling doing Glenn Branca memorial solo set 8:35-8:40
Large ensemble 3: branca memorial ensemble 8:40-8:55
Farrell Lowe 8:55-9:15
Aleeya Wilson 9:15-9:9:35
Joe Mills 9:35-10:00
Never Kenezzard Lite with Ryan Peru 10:00-10:15
Jacob Isaacs 10:15-10:35
Shawn Mlekush10:35-10:55
Equis Sub Templum – 2 large ensemble compositions 10:55-11:15