Best Shows in Denver April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

SASAMI, photo by Alice Baxley

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

girl in red, photo by Jonathan Kise

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

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

Baby Tate, photo by Scrill Davis

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

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

Jawbreaker, photo by John Dunne

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

Sarah Shook & The Disamers, photo by Harvey Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

Melvins, photo by Bob Hannam

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

Girl Talk, photo by Joey Kennedy

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

Bootblacks, photo by Katrin Albert Photography

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

Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, photo by Thomas Girard

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

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

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

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

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

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

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

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

Snail Mail, photo by Tina Tyrell

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

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

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

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

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

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

IDLES, photo by Tom Ham

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

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

Black Map, photo from Bandcamp

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

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

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

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

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

Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

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

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

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

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, photo by Chris Phelps

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

PUP, photo by Jess Baumung

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

Particle Kid, photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger

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

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

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

Deftones, photo by Tamar Levine

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

Deserta, image from Bandcamp

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

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

Knocked Loose, photo by Perri Leigh

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

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

Vahco Before Horses circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

VR Sex, photo courtesy the artists

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

Big Thief, photo by Alexa Viscius

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

Tempers, photo by Julia Khoroshilov

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

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

Best Shows in Denver November 2021

Julien Baker performs at Gothic Theatre on Nov 13, photo by Alyssa Gafkjen
Brandy Clark, photo by Chris Phelps

Wednesday | 11.03
What: Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.

Wolf Alice, photo by Jordan Hemmingway

Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04
What:
Wolf Alice w/The Blossom
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.

Black Dice, photo by Black Dice

Thursday | 11.04
What: Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.

In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.

Thursday | 11.04
What: The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 11.04
What: Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.

Band of Horses, photo by Stevie and Sarah Gee

Thursday | 11.04
What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.

Friday | 11.05
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.

Plack Blague in October 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.06
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.

Saturday | 11.06
What: Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Jess Farran

Saturday | 11.06
What: Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.

Uniform, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 11.08
What: Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.

Mamalarky, photo by Sara Cath

Tuesday | 11.09
What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.

Silverstein, photo by Juan Angel

Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12
What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre
Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.

Friday | 11.12
What: Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.

Phony Ppl, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 11.12
What: Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Saturday | 11.13
What: Julien Baker w/Dehd
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.

Saturday | 11.13
What: Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.

Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

Saturday | 11.13
What: Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Roxy on Broadway
Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.

Monday | 11/15
What: Surfbort — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Coast (Fort Collins)
Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.

Monday | 11.15
What: Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.

Paul Jacobs, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.

Black Marble in May 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Black Marble w/Voight
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.

Wednesday | 11.17
What: Caribou w/Jessy Lanza
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.

Kraak & Smaak, photo by Michael Mees

Wednesday | 11/24
What: Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 11.26
What: The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.

Friday | 11.26
What: Baroness
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Primitive Man in April 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.27
What: Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.

Soft Kill’s Post-Punk Roots Remain in the Underground

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Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

Portland, Oregon-based post-punk band Soft Kill is currently on tour with Chameleons Vox. For the Denver date at The Bluebird Theater on Wednesday September 13 the bill include Denver’s own industrial punk band Echo Beds and beat-driven, post-punk shoegazers Voight. It is, frankly, a show that represents a respectable spectrum of a wave of bands that have come along over roughly the past decade that comprise what could loosely be considered a new incarnation of the kind of music that came in the wake of punk when many creative types realized they didn’t need to adhere to an established mode of musical expression. Industrial developed alongside punk with the advent of Throbbing Gristle, but both musical impulses were anti-establishment and made a lifestyle alternative to mainstream mundanity viable.

By the 1980s industrial, post-punk, death rock, dark synth music, noise and even punk were still relatively underground phenomena even as bands like U2 and Echo & The Bunnymen took post-punk into the mainstream, Fad Gadget influenced Depeche Mode who took avant-garde synth music and gave it pop accessibility and both Skinny Puppy and Ministry proved that challenging music could find more than a simply niche audience. When the alternative music explosion of the early 90s changed the face of popular music some of the aforementioned bands benefited while much of the rest became sequestered to the “Goth scene” or largely forgotten.

The so-called post-punk revival, including “dance punk,” of the mid-90s to the early 2000s brought atmospheric, moody music into the mainstream but began in scattered underground scenes around the country. Groups like !!! (Chk Chk Chk) in Sacramento, The Faint in Omaha and The Prids (initially in Missouri, then Nebraska and for around two decades now, Portland, Oregon) created some of the most compelling post-punk in the history of that music. As did New York-based bands such as Interpol, The Rapture, The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them. All of those bands knew their musical roots in 70s and 80s post-punk, no wave, early darkwave and Krautrock but at that time many of their fans eschewed the term Goth and those so self-identified seemed to dismiss the post-punk revival bands as simply indie rock. The connection between post-punk, Goth, industrial, minimal synth and related music seemed lost.

That is until a generation of musicians, mostly born during the heyday of post-punk and industrial, rediscovered that music and embraced it as something vital that stirred the imagination. That there was an overlap with the noise scene that survived in the depths of the underground didn’t hurt. It was from there that Tobias Sinclair, one of the guitarists and singer in Soft Kill, emerged as a fledgling musician in the larger DIY music scene in New England. He had attended shows at the influential DIY space Fort Thunder in Providence, Rhode Island where, according to Sinclair, “Every other warehouse seemed to have someone with a P.A.” as well as places like Munch House and Dirt Palace.

Going to these unconventional spaces to experience music left an indelible mark on Sinclair.

“It was really inspirational without a doubt that people could just hold their own shows without all the bullshit of a bar,” says Sinclair.

At a memorable show that included now Denver based artist Mat Brinkman, Sinclair experienced the kind of creative expression that one rarely experiences anywhere else.

“With Forcefield he and seven other guys would knit these seven foot tall outfits and play oscillators,” recalls Sinclair. “That completely blew my mind compared to all the other conventional trappings. All that stuff is more important to me probably more than obvious influences on Soft Kill. hat was really inspirational for me because somebody that didn’t ever have lessons or what I perceived at that time as an inherent talent, I loved the lack of those limitations and I could kind of go nuts with it and teach myself to play an instrument based off of what felt and sounded cool rather than what was in a book.”

Around that time, Sinclair and his friends saw the 2001 Friends Forever documentary which shared some of the experiences of the Denver-based noise/performance art band that toured, or even played locally, in a van that often served as both transportation and impromptu stage. After catching Friends Forever at a venue in Western Massachusetts, Sinclair became friends with Friends Forever’s Josh Taylor. It was then that Sinclair and his band Night Wounds relocated to California and played numerous times at long-running DIY space The Smell in Los Angeles. By a strange quirk of fate, Taylor, who was involved in running Monkey Mania, a beloved DIY venue in Denver, moved to Los Angeles to help run The Smell and work at Amoeba Records at the same time Sinclair, who had worked at Amoeba, moved to Denver into Monkey Mania in 2006.

At that time Night Wounds was still an active band that toured the DIY music circuit that had been, and remains, so inspirational to Sinclair and it connected with like-minded noise rock bands like Chicago’s Coughs, Montreal’s AIDS Wolf and Vancouver, British Columbia’s Mutators. All of which were big names in the small realm of DIY noise rock. Also during that time, Sinclair was deep into a thirteen year struggle with drug abuse that ended in 2016. Although his experience with hard drugs took its toll on Sinclair in various ways, access to substances is what anchored him to cities like Denver and his now home of Portland, Oregon. “I wasn’t aspiring to go to a place to go be fucked but I definitely stayed longer because of that, if that makes sense.”

Sinclair admits that the drugs are part of the reason Soft Kill has taken a lot longer to blossom into the band it has striven to be, it also coincidentally pushed his timeline as a musician into developing the ideas and sounds for which Soft Kill is now known. But before Soft Kill, Sinclair had, alongside Night Wounds, been part of a Goth-y punk band called Blessure Graves.

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Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

“When I started Blessure Graves the big thing was the lo-fi garage rock revival,” says Sinclair. “And there was this very small niche out of that which was Goth music made with a similar fidelity. It felt like a quick, flash in the pan. What happened with us was when I started Soft Kill in 2010 we did one album and then my demons got the best of me and I started getting locked up and having to take a long time to stray away from music. When I got out, I started seeing that a bunch of people saw An Open Door as one of the top two or three records that had come out in recent years out of that type of music. That influenced me and people in the band now to put more energy into it in 2012. But by the time we really got momentum was 2014. By that point we realized that our first record had been celebrated as one of the integral releases in post-punk records of the past ten years—they said it was top tier. We thought whoa, that’s crazy, it must be because there aren’t other bands doing that.”

“We started going out and touring and we were blown away by how many bands there were. And from there onward, for the first time in forever I felt there was a large, legitimate scene with dots connected much more than they’d been in the past 15-20 years. There’s a lot of labels that cater to it. Some of the bands have become popular and it’s not been limited to just one style. Not all these bands sound like Joy Division.”

The larger scene that Sinclair had discovered included a constellation of bands and labels across the country and around the world. Imprints like The Flenser, Dais, Sacred Bones, Dark Entries and Beläten are just a few of the labels releasing the music. Bands such as Curse, Beastial Mouths, Troller, Some Ember, All Your Sisters, Burning, Youth Code, Pop. 1280, Echo Beds, Voight, Church Fire and numerous others have been touring and finding an audience eager for sounds and a culture that maintains a connection to its underground roots and experimental music that has yet to be completely co-opted and tamed by mainstream commercial interests.

2016 represented a landmark year for Soft Kill. Its arguably best album to date, Choke, was released on Profound Lore. Best, because it most fully realizes the band’s love of hypnotic beats, driving bass and rich, expressive, evocative tones. Sinclair had booked a Chameleons Vox tour in 2015, through simply contacting vocalist/bassist Mark Burgess. In 2016 Sinclair went on to book two other of the most influential bands for Soft Kill in Sad Lovers and Giants and Modern English, the latter performing its classic 1981 album Mesh & Lace in its entirety for the first time as the group had not toured on the record the first time around. He also booked Clan of Xymox for the third edition of the Out of the Shadows festival alongside Denver-based darkwave band Tollund Men, who released his favorite tape of recent years—Autoerotik.

“When we played Denver the first time at Leisure Gallery they played and we were like, ‘No way, this can’t be happening!’ I think they were really taken aback by how into their band we were. We showed up superfans. They played with us the next time we played there and I think they disintegrated after that.”

“I really like repetitious stuff in general but there’s this slow burn to that whole tape. It’s got hooks and it’s dirty as hell but I can put that on and crank it up and it’s the perfect background music for me. I dug the tones that he gets out of distorting everything to the maximum degree. It was a band I always loved but that particular tape I’m really glad they did that last and went out on that note. He showed he wasn’t beating a dead horse, that he had mastered the vision that he had so it makes sense that he moved on from there. I respect that because I know he could have taken many an opportunity that he didn’t. I love when people don’t give into that bullshit.”

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Soft Kill at Leisure Gallery, June 16, 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Sinclair’s soft spot for Denver, born of his experience living in the Mile High City and experiencing Friends Forever in New England, extends to the underground metal and hardcore scene in Denver and he expresses an appreciation for acts like Blood Incantation and Civilized. In the near-ish future Soft Kill will also put out a split with Denver death grind heroes Primitive Man, whose Ethan McCarthy shares the history with Sinclair of having lived in and operated Monkey Mania, though not at the same time. But, as is the way with the informal, DIY there is no pressure to put out the split release to fit some record label release schedule. Sinclair met McCarthy and so many other musicians who have impacted him through the underground music route.

“Ultimately, this is how I met all these people and this is the world that we want to exist within and regardless that we sound nothing like Echo Beds, that’s a band we would go on tour with before whatever people think makes sense,” says Sinclair.