Best Shows in Denver and Beyond September 2022

Boris performs at Bluebird Theater with Nothing on 9/14 , photo by Yoshihiro Mori
Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks in September 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 09.02 and 09.03
What: Nine Inch Nails w/Yves Tumor
When: 7
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails is too famous and for too long and rightfully so to bother to get detailed about its significance in popularizing industrial and electronic music and even ambient. The band’s shows are always innovative and pushing the performance envelope in some way whether that be in the visual presentation, with the sound production end, with sets that change throughout the show or playing with how the band itself presents its music as a live act. Nine Inch Nails doesn’t skimp on putting on probably the best show you’ll see this year or among the top tier at the least. And Trent Reznor or someone in the NIN camp always finds one of the coolest, up-and-coming, genre boundary challenging, innovative musical project going and for these two shows it’s Yves Tumor the experimental electronic and R&B artist whose shows are part Prince, part HEALTH, part Janelle Monáe but very much his own glorious earth alien charismatic psychedelia.

Courtney Barnett, photo by Mia Mala McDonald

Saturday | 09.03
What: Here and There Festival: Japanese Breakfast, Courtney Barnett, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Courtney Barnett’s “Here And There” Festival makes a stop in Denver at the Mission Ballroom on September 3 with a unique lineup that for the Denver date in addition to Barnett includes Japanese Breakfast, Arooj Aftab and Bedouine.

The concept for the event was born of Barnett’s love of curation. As the owner of Milk! Records for the past decade Barnett has championed and released music by artists from her home town of Melbourne, Australia as well as US artists like Sleater-Kinney, Chastity Belt, Hand Habits and others.

Over the course of the tour from August through September, lineups will include all of the following artists: Alvvays, Arooj Aftab, Bartees Strange, Bedouine, Caroline Rose, Chicano Batman, Courtney Barnett, Ethel Cain, Faye Webster, Fred Armisen, Hana Vu, Indigo De Souza, Japanese Breakfast, Julia Jacklin, Leith Ross, Lido Pimienta, Lucy Dacus, Quinn Christopherson, Sleater Kinney, Snail Mail, The Beths, Waxahatchee and Wet Leg.

Barnett quickly went from a beloved and critically acclaimed indie artist known for her masterful use of the English language and powerful and imaginative guitar work and songwriting when her early EPs released 2012-2013 to widely celebrated singer-songwriter of no small cachet by the time of the 2015 release of her debut full length album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. With each record Barnett has distinguished herself as a songwriter able to expose her vulnerabilities and anxieties in a way that conveys a solidarity with other people and their own struggles.

Sharing the bill is Japanese Breakfast, the band lead by Michelle Zauner whose own trajectory as an artist parallels that of Barnett going from playing all the small clubs on the same circuits a little under a decade ago and delivering emotionally arresting pop songs that aren’t short on musicianly artistry. In 2021 she released her memoir Crying in H Mart to great acclaim in its poignant and loving depiction of her life coming up with a Korean mom, coming into playing music and the passing of her mother from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Her own pop music has as much in common with art rock in its creative ambition and songwriting with her songs easily fitting into the categories of dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelia, indie rock and R&B.

Arooj Aftab is the US-based Pakistani singer and songwriter who is the first person of Pakistani origin to be awarded a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for her song “Mohabbat.” Her style is a hybrid of experimental folk, jazz and more traditional Pakistani music with elements of her 2021 album Vulture Prince reminiscent of Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufism. But her orchestral arrangements and powerfully tranquil yet emotionally rich vocal delivery defies easy categorization.

Bedouine aka Azniv Korkejian is a Syrian-American musician who grew up with both mainstream music via MTV and traditional Armenian and Arabic music. Her third album Waysides (2021) is a masterful evocation of loss, isolation, yearning and introspective insight cast in the sounds of Laurel Canyon era folk.

Jim Ward, Feb. 19, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Sunday | 09.04
What: The Get Up Kids w/Sparta
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Get Up Kids from Kansas City were one of the defining bands of 90s emo but stylistically never quite trapped in the tropes of the genre and its songwriting came to include keyboards and more focused pop songcraft without sacrificing the energy and intensity of its early music. Like Jawbreaker, The Get Up Kids made music in a style that isn’t cringey decades later unlike that of some of their peers. For this tour the band will perform its debut full length album Four Minute Mile as well as the Woodson EP in their entirety. Jim Ward of Sparta came up through similar circles of 90s underground punk and post-hardcore as a member of the influential and incendiary At The Drive In. But when the latter split in 2001 and part of the group went on to form The Mars Volta making music of a very different style, Ward continued to refine the style of music he’d helped develop in ATDI. The angular punk with searing emotional energy and intellect informing the lyrics. The group went on hiatus in 2008 and outside of a brief reunion in the early 2010s didn’t fully come back together until 2017. During the interceding years wrote and released music under his own name and with Sleepercar and honed his songwriting so that when Sparta returned to write and release 2020’s Trust the River the artistic growth was obvious and what has been put out from the forthcoming self-titled Sparta album is like a fusion of that fiery sonics of early Sparta and a more refined focus in the dynamics and structure of the songs to hit with emotional precision.

Sunday | 09.04
What: Echo & The Bunnymen w/Cayucas
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Echo & The Bunnymen were and are one of the classic bands out of the second wave of UK post-punk with a rooting in the first. The Bunnymen brought a romantic sensibility to the lyrics and a sense of mystery and tenderness to the music that has made its songs age exceedingly well apparently having formed outside immediate and obvious influences rather drawing inspiration from across decades of music and aiming to craft their own creative mythmaking. You’ll hear the hits, probably, but also deep cuts that will please true fans of the group’s deep well of great material.

Peter Hook at the Royal Albert Hall on September 29, 2018, photo by Jody Hartley

Monday | 09.05
What: An Evening With Peter Hook & The Light – Joy Division: A Celebration
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Peter Hook is of course one of the founding members of influential post-punk band Joy Division. For this occasion Hook will make an evening of a broad spectrum of that band’s songs. Anyone that has seen Peter Hook & The Light knows that Hook isn’t phoning in some greatest hits set. The band conjures the spirit of the original music and Hook’s own bass lines are iconic and foundational the sound, the mood, the cadences of post-punk and by extension through New Order pop and dance music. He brings a commanding presence and no small amount of his own fire to the performances though he shares bass duties with his son Jack who some may have seen play in The Smashing Punpkins. Hook’s three books The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (2010), Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (2012) and Substance: Inside New Order (2016) are essential reading for not just entertainment value but for the perspective and sense of history and culture that Hook was there to witness and in some ways shape.

Flume, photo by Nick Green

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | 09.05, 09.06, 09.07
What: Flume ( w/Pospa, Sega Bodega at Mission on 9.05 – w/TSHA, Porspa and Oklou on 09.06 – w/Eprom, Shlomo and Oklou on 09.07
When: 7 p.m. for 09.05 and 5 p.m. for 09.06-09.07
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.05) and Red Rocks (09.06-09.07)
Why: Harley Streten has come a long way since learning basic production from a DJ and mixing program CD he got from a box of Nutrigrain. From early smaller club shows far afield from his home home town of Sydney, Australia, Streten as Flume steadily but fairly rapidly established himself as one of the more innovative ED artists of the 2010s whose facility with sculpting atmosphere and melody and merging it seamlessly with unconventional beats to make for music that has been able to evolve, absorb and move beyond micro-stylistic shift in the world of electronic dance music and today he’s one of the most popular artists in a realm of music that has remained important but seemingly plateaued in its cultural impact. But Streten’s musical imagination and skills have consistently kept him ahead of the curve and in mentoring newer artists in an organic way his shows are not just a showcase for his own work but that of potential future stars already doing interesting work.

Thursday | 09.08
What: Alphabet Soup #52: Felix Fast4ward, Reed Fox, Furbie Cakes, Sky Floor and Green Leader https://blackboxdenver.co/events/alphabeat-soup-sep8
When: 9
Where: Black Box
Why: Long-running experimental electronic dance-oriented music showcase Alphabet Soup returns with some of the local scenes more daring producers and imaginative soundscapers.

Kal Marks in October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Kal Marks – My Name is Hell Tour w/Moon Pussy and Cherished
When: 9
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Boston’s Kal Marks recently released its new album My Name Is Hell. The record out on NYC label Exploding In Sound is a further development of the group’s hybrid of emo, noise rock, pop collage and post-punk. The live band brings a visceral energy that takes the core of the recorded material and transforms it into cathartic performances that seem simultaneously passionate and vulnerable. Also playing this show is the crackling ball of nervous energy and roiling angular dynamics that is Moon Pussy whose fractured soundscapes and raw power transforms anxiety and amused outrage into inspiration. Cherished has become one of the most emotionally charged, melancholic shoegaze bands in Denver and elsewhere and the melodically gloomy counterpart to the other bands you’ll get to witness at this show.

Friday | 09.09
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine and DJ Slave1
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan probably needs no introduction and this is a show rescheduled from the spring for the foundational synth pop and industrial rock songwriter and musician. Maybe you only know “Cars” or “Down In the Park” but Gary Numan has had a long and consistently boundary pushing career and whose body of music is like a distinguished career in the kind of science fiction as song that puts the human experience at the center and thus it has aged well and his intense and riveting live shows are proof positive of the enduring vitality of his creative genius.

Flogging Molly 2021, photo by Katie Hovland

Friday | 09.09
What: Flogging Molly & The Interrupters w/Tiger Army and The Skints
When: 5
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Celtic punk can be a bit niche for many but Flogging Molly’s songwriting transcends that niche partly due to the exceptionally powerful vocals courtesy actually Irish lead singer Dave King. Though often lumped in with the pop punk world in which its spirited performances seem to find a natural home, there is a charming nuance of sound and style in the group’s music that lend its tales of poverty, love, death, revelry and struggle an artfulness to its clearly authentic sentiments. The band’s latest album Anthem includes “A Song Of Liberty” that starts out, at least in the music video and in the lyrics, to be a show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine against Russia but extends that solidarity with struggles for national liberation across decades and across continents. There’s nothing performative or phony about that messaging in the music nor in the band’s general, internationalist working class solidarity born out of basic compassion for other humans.

Emerald Siam in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.09
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Church Fire and Emerald Siam
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians, longtime project of Jay Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, is celebrating the release of its latest album Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion with this show at the Bluebird. This band is also an Americana band in a dark vein akin to that of some of SCAC’s own style but generally darker, more overtly literary and conceptual and in the live setting often accompanied by an element of the ritualistic. Breaking with local scene custom, and all the better for that, the opening bands aren’t going to be Americana at all except in the larger sense that political, darkwave industrial band Church Fire wouldn’t emerge anywhere but America where its incisive critique of the perils of patriarchy and religion as infused into the culture and politics as a lived experience perhaps has the greatest impact, or that Emerald Siam’s own moody, garage rock noir flavored post-punk would seem like an odd affectation coming from anyone but people who have breathed deep in what it’s like to live and struggle in the fractious society that is the USA.

Friday | 09.09
What: Westword Music Showcase Part 1
When: 7
Where: Various Venues in RiNO
Why: This is the first night of the Westword Music Showcase and it’s free. So some best bets no explanations given because there’s a lot going on this night.
7pm: Honey Blazer
8 pm: Bellhoss, Plasma Canvas or Kayla Marque
9 pm: Endless Nameless, Ritmo Cascabel, Bluebook
10 pm: Julian St. Nightmare
11 pm: Despair Jordan
12:20 am: Pink Fuzz or Citra

Allison Russel, photo by Marc Baptiste

Friday and Saturday | 09.09 and 09.10
What: Brandi Carlise ( w/ Lucius and Allison Russell on 09.09 and w/Indigo Girls and Allison Russell on 09.10)
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Brandi Carlisle is rightfully an incredibly famous and commercially successful singer-songwriter for her broad stylistic and emotional range as an artist with a powerful and expressive voice. Her latest album is In The Canyon Haze. Opener Allison Russell is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter whose debut solo album Outside Child released in 2021 on respected jazz, folk and Americana label Fantasy. Her orchestral yet spare arrangements bring her powerfully soulful vocals together in a style that might be described as Appalachian jazz R&B yet it works because Russell’s commanding presence and facility in playing multiple roles in performance is riveting for both its instrumental virtuosity and emotional resonance. See her band’s performance on KEXP below.

Saturday | 09.10
What: Westword Music Showcase Day 2
When: 12
Where: Various Venues Around Mission Ballroom
Why: This is the Westword Music Showcase day where you need to buy a ticket and here are some recommendations with no details.
2 pm: The Mañanas
2:35: Cannons
3:20: Ramakhandra
4:05: Wet Leg – canceled
5: Don Chicharrón
8:40 N3PTUNE
9:30: The Flaming Lips

Lucy Dacus, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 09.12
What: The National w/Lucy Dacus
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: The National rose to prominence in the 2000s and its brooding, atmospheric pop songs has certainly been one of the templates of modern indie music. Even early on its lush production and layered, orchestral arrangements felt like a natural successor to 90s indiepop and its contemplative lyrics can’t help but strike a chord with anyone that actually takes them in. Matt Berninger’s vocal delivery always seems to come across like he’s reading from a memoir from some future decade and having a poignant memory to relate, the kind that takes you back vividly to that time in a way that makes it possible to articulate with the benefit of life experience—something not everyone can do as well as Berninger does. After a eight acclaimed albums The National has returned with material for the upcoming ninth album and performing some of that at its 2022 live shows. Opening the proceedings is accomplished songwriter Lucy Dacus. Some may know Dacus more for her membership in supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. But Dacus’ records under her name are a body of personally insightful and emotionally fortifying songs that the songwriter delivers with an understated cool that nevertheless doesn’t mask the feelings and examinations thereof that went into distilling them into musical poetry. Even on her first album No Burden (2016), Dacus displayed a sophistication of songwriting at twenty one that can take many more years to attain. 2021’s Home Video has moments of almost uncomfortable rawness and honesty that aren’t made easier to hear with the gentle performances. Rather the songs are a vivid trip through psychological spaces perhaps we all experience but sometimes try to forget and Dacus makes it seem okay to think and feel these things because emotional self-honesty can be as healing as it can be searingly painful and haunting. Dacus brings that kind of compassionate energy and sense of mystery to her live performances as well so clearly a fine match for the headliner.

Stereolab in 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Stereolab w/Fievel is Glauque
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Stereolab is the long-running experimental rock and electronic band formed in 1990 in London with former members of leftist political pop band McCarthy, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier. The new group would adopt lo-fi pop aesthetics, Krautrock, avant-garde electronic and musique concrète into its ever evolving sound so that the “groop” could never get fully stuck in its own stylistic rut. Stereolab has become one of the most respected and beloved cult bands of the 90s that endured through the late 2000s before going on hiatus for a decade until 2019. Its most recent release is the 2022 compilation album Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On, Vol. 5 which brings together tracks from across its career including a 1997 collaboration with arch experimentalists Nurse With Wound and other non official album tracks that have formerly been hard to come by including the 1992 Low Fi EP that marked the first appearance with the group of the late Mary Hansen and longtime and current member Andy Ramsay. The live shows are a combination of impassioned performance and sultry cool.

Full of Hell, photo by Jess Dankmeyer

Tuesday | 09.13
What: Full of Hell & Blood Incantation w/Vermin Womb, Mortuous and God is War
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Might be the noisy heavy show of the month. Death grind legends Full of Hell whose 2021 album Garden of Burning Apparitions is as relentless as it is unsettling in its haunting vibes co-headlines with progressive death metal weirdos Blood Incantation from Denver who recently released an entire synth album though you probably won’t hear much of that for this show. Vermin Womb just release the blistering and thrillingly punishing Retaliation EP and will probably hit the stage hard with economical precision in its sonic brutality and exit before you’re full aware of what hit you.

Boris, photo by Yoshihiro Mori

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Boris w/Nothing
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For the past thirty years Japanese rock band Boris has truly explored so many different styles of heavy and experimental across its prolific career that one would have to be hesitant to try to define the group’s aesthetic because from album to album it’s always been an exploration of the trio’s interests at the time from gear to songwriting to genre. In addition to the impressive and influential body of work under its own name, Boris has multiple collaborative albums with noise legend Merzbow, albums with Michio Kurihara of psych legends Ghost (not to be confused with the Swedish heavy metal band) and an album with respected Japanese avant-garde musician Keiji Haino. Its most recent album is its 2022 and second album titled Heavy Rocks. And as advertized it’s a rock album that is heavy but this time more in the vein of a strange and fascinating hybrid of punk, glam rock and heavy psychedelia. Live Boris has a mystique that renders all of its music strange and alluring rendered with a forceful intensity. Also on this tour is post-hardcore/noise rock band turned heavy shoegaze outfit Nothing whose 2020 album The Great Dismal is a great exercise in mood sculpting through hazy melodies and introspective vocals making observations on the decay of society and a fragile hope for things in the world to flow toward the better.

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: Kikagaku Moyo
When: 7:30 (09.14) and 7 (09.15)
Where: Fox Theatre (09.14) and Ogden Theatre (09.15)
Why: Legendary psychedelic folk prog band Kikagaku Moyo from Tokyo is taking its live show on the road one last time with two shows in Colorado. In May 2022 the group released its latest and likely final album Kumoyo Island and revealed the influence of cosmic funk on its sound in addition to the fusion of Japanese folk and Krautrock.

Wilco, photo by Annabel Mehran

Wednesday | 09.14
What: Wilco w/Margo Price
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Wilco is of course one of the most critically acclaimed indie rock bands going on three decades now and deservedly so. There isn’t a Wilco record that isn’t worth an earnest listen. Its 2022 album Cruel Country isn’t just brimming with solid songwriting and performances but the social commentary is poignant and personal in a way worthy of early Bob Dylan. The title track addresses youthful misconceptions about the country of one’s birth and the evolution of one’s nuanced understanding not just of countries but one’s own place in them. Perhaps unintentionally but one hears a touch of the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty on this record but that just gives it a cultural resonance across decades that is probably warranted in making meaningful and creative statements about society in the times we’re in now rather than hit issues of national identity on the nose. Of course the show will include material well beyond the new album and Wilco is reliably delivers a lively and highly entertaining performance. Opener Margo Price is one of the rising stars of modern country music but of course this means she’s not just a charismatic performer but her own songwriting expands the boundaries of what that music can be. Her new single “Been To The Mountain” borders on the psychedelic and is reminiscent of more adventurous country artists of the past like Lone Justice and Green on Red.

The Head and the Heart, photo by Shervin Lainez

Wednesday and Thursday | 09.14 and 09.15
What: The Head and the Heart w/Hiss Golden Messenger
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom (09.14) and Red Rocks (09.15)
Why: The Head and the Heart has established itself as one of the definitive artists of indie rock of the past decade and more. Earnest vocals and spacious arrangements and expansive melodies are components of its sound from early on but the Seattle based sextet has a knack for crafting pop hooks and imaginative arrangements that easily get stuck in your head but you don’t mind because it’s not repetitive or insipid, just heartfelt and memorable. Its 2022 album Every Shade of Blue seems to have pared its usual sonic mode to a spare minimalism that may not be what some fans are expecting from The Head and the Heart but within each one hears an experiment with where the group will go with its next album. Coming out of the pandemic every band can probably be excused for indulging a wide range of songwriting ideas that can make their new album sound like a transitional effort and maybe that’s what the sound of this record may come across as being yet there are undeniable gems on the record including the title track. At the very least at the show you’ll get to see old favorites live and see how The Head and the Heart pulls off material from the new record.

Perturbator, photo by David Fitt

Thursday | 09.15
What: HEALTH w/Perturbator and Street Sects
When: 6
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: This tour features some of the most inventive modern electronic industrial artists going. HEALTH got its break as one of the most prominent bands to come out of the DIY music scene around the non-profit venue The Smell in the mid-2000s. Weaving together noise, electronic dance music and darkly urgent post-punk, HEALTH has garnered a global audience with its ferocious live shows and idiosyncratically stylish aesthetics. Perturbator is more in the vein of blending industrial rock with 1980s horror movie synth soundtracks but delivered with a confrontational energy. James Kent aka Perturbator has a background in black metal and brings that attitude to his compositions and performance. 2021’s Lustful Sacraments turns down the aggression of Perturbator’s sound a little in favor of a touch of ethereal guitar melody and creative use of space in the mix lending the overall sound a haunting undercurrent. Street Sects is an industrial punk duo from Austin, Texas whose use of drastic dynamic shifts and spiky rhythms in a cloak of fog and metallic percussion that has been a flagship band of the experimental music label The Flenser. Its shows can have an unhinged intensity with a sense of danger to them though lately they haven’t as often brought out the bladeless chainsaw to change out into the crowd.

Pink Turns Blue, photo by Daniel Vorndran

Thursday | 09.15
What: Pink Turns Blue, Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Pink Turns Blue is the influential post-punk/darkwave band from Berlin, Germany that made waves in the 1980s through the mid-1990s for its moody yet triumphant songs imbued with a political awareness and sense of urgency within its gloomy melodies and dynamically measured paces. The group got back together in 2003 after the so-called post-punk revival that happened shortly after it broke up the first time and prior to the development of the modern darkwave scene yet clearly, directly or otherwise, exerted a bit of influence on artists in both periods. TAINTED is the 2021 record by the band and contains some of its most poetic and poignant political material of its career in challenging the world’s mishandling or really ignoring of the climate crisis and the rise of authoritarianism and income inequality—all seemingly so pressing now.

Alice Glass, photo courtesy Sacks & Co 2018

Thursday | 09.15
What: Alice Glass w/Uffie
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Alice Glass is perhaps most widely known for her work in electronic duo Crystal Castles where her expressive and otherworldly yet intimate vocals were a large part of the appeal of the project. After parting ways with Crystal Castles in 2014 later accusing her bandmate of assault and sexual misconduct, Alice Glass has emerged a solo artist whose work has a unique emotional resonance and vulnerable intensity that vibes perfectly with the inventive and mysterious beats in a style that sounds like it’s taken elements of hyper pop and the 8-bit electronic production of her earlier music and pushed it in a direction that suited the likely painful subject matter of her songs. After a 2017 debut EP Glass had some conflict with her label and parted ways but released her debut full length PREY//IV in February 2022 and she’s still putting out some honest words that speak truth about the kind of struggle and pain a lot of people go through every day especially people that have experienced abuse and in doing so provides maybe a tiny bit of catharsis with the music and with her powerful live show.

Melvins, photo by Chris Casella

Friday | 09.16
What: Melvins w/We Are The Asteroid and Taipei Houston
When: 7
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Melvins are one of the foundational bands of the heavy punk scene out of the Pacific Northwest and one of the primary influences on the bands that became the first wave of grunge. But Melvins never got stuck there or with that legacy even as it evolved its early sound and went on to explore a multitude of ideas in the music they made and how it was presented and where they would play and the kinds of tours they would tackle including the time they played every U.S. State in fifty days. All along the way Melvins have left us an impressive body of albums that push the boundaries of what heavy music can be and with every album Melvins offer something very different from the one that came before. This time around for the newly released 2022 album Bad Moon Rising there has been little advance promotion or videos or really much of a peak into what it sounds like. Making it a good excuse to go see one of the most entertaining and consistently impressive live rock bands of the modern era.

Friday | 09.16
What: George Cessna & His Band perform Lucky Rider w/Rose Variety, Fainting Dreams and DBUK
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: George Cessna & His Band will perform the 2021 album Lucky Rider in its entirety. The existential and haunting, lo-fi record distills the essence and spirit of being a creative and thoughtful person in the current time dealing with a multitude of challenges from those of the pandemic, to an increasingly neglectful media environment for the arts especially those local, trying to navigate personal challenges while reaching deep into self to find a reason to keep doing creative work when all sensible arrows point elsewhere. It is one of the most poignant personal music statements in the last few years and worth getting to witness in the live setting.

Grace Ives, photo by Samuel Metzger

Friday | 09.16
What: Grace Ives w/Super Bummer
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Grace Ives’ 2022 album Janky Star has likely snuck onto the year end best lists of more than a few music critics because not only are her eccentric pop songs imaginative crafted but speak to the current cultural moment. There is a meta self-awareness that is employed to make earnest commentary on mental health and seeking out deeper meanings in a cultural environment where so much is thrown your way often decoupled from context. All the songs on the album are short and to the point but rich with ideas. Ives says a great deal in a small space without overwhelming the listener. Somewhere between synth pop, hip-hop and even some bit of progressive rock Ives’ music has obviously absorbed a lot of modern music and come out more surprisingly original for it.

Friday | 09.16
What: Patched Out – Live Electronic Dance Music Party: Acidbat, Paul City, Love Cosmic Love, ALX-106
When: 9:01
Where: Black Box
Why: This is a more than ordinarily experimental electronic music showcase featuring local artists who pull from not only electronic dance music but noise and industrial styles. Minimal techno, glitchy acid house, mutant deep house grime.

Wild Rivers, photo by Samuel Kojo

Friday | 09.16
What: Wild Rivers w/Violet Skies
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Toronto-based indie folk trio Wild Rivers released its sophomore album Sidelines in 2022, the follow up to its 2016 self-titled debut. Like most bands Wild River basically had to take a couple of years off from performing live and maybe rediscover and reimagine its sound some but in this case Wild Rivers leaned into its superb use of space and minimal instrumentation for a good deal of the material to allow for the gentle, warm and expressive touch of the vocals to sit center but also in allowing the percussion and rhythm to guide the music subtly but firmly, a feature of music one doesn’t often hear so clearly in folk-oriented music.

Porridge Radio, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Saturday | 09.17
What: Porridge Radio w/Blondshell and Moodlighting
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Porridge Radio is a post-punk band from Brighton, UK formed after songwriter and lead vocalist Dana Margolin realized she needed a band to fully bring to life the songs she had been crafting and mainly performing at open mics and her own bedroom. There is a grittiness to the atmospheric music that can be found rooted in Margolin’s raw and tenderly honest lyrics and the way the band manifests the layered the contrasting emotions the singer/guitarist brings to bear and let out in often unexpected and engulfing outbursts that make it obvious you’re not listening to a conventional indie band because Porridge Radio doesn’t try to smooth over the rough edges. Its new album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky (2022, Secretly Canadian) is rich with poetic metaphors for relationships fracturing and the struggles of one’s inner life that are too often kept bottled up and never addressed. Porridge Radio lets that anxiety out in a gripping sustained catharsis. Tourmate Blondshell aka Sabrina Teitelbaum is a songwriter based in Los Angeles whose own vulnerabilities and insecurities are also laid out in exuberant pop songs. Blondshell’s sound, though, is more akin to 90s alternative rock in its liberal use of fuzz and bombastic song structures to give some sonic and emotional boost to songs about the kinds of thoughts and experiences that can make us feel like we’re falling apart and failing ourselves yet finding some redemption and positive transformation in being willing to own the feelings and work through them. Moodlighting is a dream pop band from Denver whose fragile and winsome melodies are charged with an ethereal melancholy that lends the music more depth than seems obvious on first encounter.

Blondshell, photo by Dominique Falcone

Saturday | 09.17
What: Sick of It All and Agnostic Front w/Crown of Thornz
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Agnostic Front may predate the existence of Sick Of It All by six years and technically part of the first wave of hardcore, but New York City hardcore didn’t really get its due or hit its stride until later in the eighties and these two bands were a couple of the leaders of that punk milieu along with Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and others.

Colin James, photo by James O’Mara

Saturday | 09.17
What: Colin James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Colin James is a Canadian blues and rock guitarist/vocalist who got his big break into a national and international music world when his band was tapped to open last minute for Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1984 when another opening act was no longer available. Since then James has expanded upon his electric and acoustic blues style and was an early adopter of swing in the early 90s when straight ahead blues wasn’t as much in favor for a number of years and his Colin James and the Little Big Band project enjoyed some success when the swing revival was under way throughout the 90s. But in the 2000s and 2010s it seemed as though blues enjoyed a bit of a renaissance including the popular Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and numerous blues festivals that have come about since the turn of the century. James’ most recent album, 2021’s Open Road, is a collection of interpretation of blues classics and original material that showcases the musician’s masterful command of the musical idiom and ability to innovate within it.

Sunday | 09.18
What: Bob Mould Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts!
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Bob Mould is of course the co-founder of Hüsker Dü and Sugar but his solo albums have provided some of his best and most refined songwriting to date. This tour will be a chance to see Mould perform from across his solo catalog including the 2020 Blue Hearts album which included Jon Wurster of Superchunk fame and Jason Narducy also of Superchunk filling in for Laura Ballance. So this performance will probably include both of those guys and Mould’s own lively presence.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids, photo by Brendan Meadows

Sunday | 09.18
What: Snotty Nose Rez Kids w/Freedom Move…
When: 7
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a First Nations hip-hop duo from Kitamaat Village, BC but now based in Vancouver. Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce have a style that people that appreciate trap and hyper pop would appreciate including the meta self-awareness required to pull that off with creativity and artistry. So of course there is a deep sense of play and humor in the music but so many of its songs hit as poignant and as powerfully as the best hip-hop especially in painting a portrait of life in their First Nations community and the unique struggles attendant with that experience.

Monday | 09.19
What: Pavement w/Annalibera
When: 6:30
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Almost all indie bands of any originality worth listening to can trace their roots to the idiosyncratic and masterful guitar rock of Pavement. The group long made a virtue of unconventional song structure, Stephen Malkmus’ unusual vocal style and an almost free associating lyrics. Its loosely arranged guitar jangle both loping and angular leaves room for truly creative improvisation that have yet to be fully appreciated by many fans who might be put off by how much Pavement’s music resonates with free jazz and a psychedelic blues jam. Live Pavement has remained a brilliant head scratcher which is really the reason to see them live if you can afford the exorbitant ticket price because even though the influence on modern music is obvious no one has really been able to quite mimic the idiosyncratic melodies and bizarre observational lyrics.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: of Montreal w/Locate S, 1 and Duck Turnstone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: of Montreal is one of the longest running bands that emerged out of the 90s indiepop milieu with roots in the Elephant6 collective (i.e. Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel). Its colorful album cover imagery and borderline performance art stage personae come from a real place of genuine eccentric creativity informed by an experimental literary approach to lyrics and not just conceptual album arcs but individual songs as well. There is a deep imagination discernible on any of its albums including the 2022 offering Freewave Lucifer F<ck F^ck F>ck. This new music sounds even more like a collage of psychedelic pop and space rock glam.

Wednesday | 09.21
What: PROBLEMS w/Goo Age, Andy Loebs, DJ Arman and DJ Fresh Kill
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Daren Keen has been responsible for some of the most creative electronic and noise music of the past several years and with his project PROBLEMS it’s like he is mixing techno with surreal spoken word, hip-hop and electronic dance music as a vehicle for what might be musical autobiography as exposure of neuroses and insecurities inverted bravado.

Thursday | 09.22
What: Dan Deacon w/PROBLEMS
When: 7
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Dan Deacon is one of the most prominent experimental electronic pop artists to have emerged from the American DIY underground whose graduate degree in electro-acoustic and computer music he has put to direct use as a composer and songwriter whose work can be found across a long career of high concept albums and film scores. The former also serving as sage commentary on modern American culture. His shows tend to be incredibly interactive involving audience participation which may make the stage at Meow Wolf more conducive to such adventures than more traditional concert venues. Also on the bill is PROBLEMS mentioned above for that date at Glob.

Built to Spill, photos by Isa Georgetti, collage be Lea Meida

Friday | 09.23
What: Built to Spill w/The French Tips and ORUA
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill needs no real introduction as one of the bands to emerge in the 1990s that embraced a noisy punk sound and jammy psychedelia at once to craft a body of work that could express deeply personal contemplations on life as well as commentary on the nature of existence. Its new record When The Wind Forgets Your Name is one of its most gritty and bracing in years with Neil Young-esque guitar leads and Doug Martsch’s signature, haunted, playful mystic vocals offering more of the band’s unique creative vision that never seems trapped by an era or style of music thus its continued vitality.

…And The Black Feathers, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: …And The Black Feathers EP release w/The Trujillo Company, Jaguar Stevens and Bootleg Baldwins
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: …And The Black Feathers is a band that somehow grinds out bluesy garage rock without sounding like its trying to be some other artist. It’s tempting to compare it to John Spencer Blues Explosion but it’s not that bizarre yet there is something otherworldly to its performances and air of having come to us from the same parallel dimension that gave us Tav Falco and Kid Congo Powers. The group is releasing its first EP in a few years.

Dehd, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 09.23
What: Dehd w/Exum
When: 8
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dehd is a trio from Chicago that is somehow able to be funny and incredibly poignant and powerful at the same time with an eclectic body of work that blurs the line between blues, punk, garage rock and dream pop. Its 2022 album Blue Skies is one of its more melancholic and contemplative records but as per usual there is a defiant spirit running through the music that directly translates to the live show where Dehd take minimalist elements and turn it into something that seems so gloriously bombastic and celebratory it exorcises some of the pain and disappointment that went into making the writing of the songs possible.

Divide and Dissolve, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 09.23
What: Divide and Dissolve w/Matriarch and Vulgarian
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Divide and Dissolve is an instrumental doom band from Melbourne, Australia. And yes, instrumental but its songs crafted from saxophone, guitar and percussion are a commentary on colonialism and its corrosive effects not just on indigenous culture but on itself as an extension of a racist economic system that ultimately commodifies all things and all people and devalues life, the earth and inspires so many to rationalize its predation because they benefit from its narrow vision of sharing resources and the “proper” use of our time in what little of it we have on the earth. The music sounds like a deconstruction of that system and the 2021 album Gas Lit leaves no question about how “the legacy of greed has grown from its seed to infiltrate every place, every face, releasing a suffering recorded in stone and in bone, so old that language can’t console it.”

f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 09.23
What: F-ether tour kickoff w/UaZit, FOANS, Knife Band and Causer
When: 7:30
Where: Glob
Why: F-ether is one of the few producers in Denver who is steeped in both the noise, electronic dance and rock scenes who seems adept at navigating these musical concepts in crafting his own playful and imaginative tracks. He’s setting off on his latest tour and celebrating with likeminded, creative electronic artists for this show including the always powerful and engrossing Causer.

Foreign Air, photo by Luke Adams

Saturday | 09.24
What: Foreign Air w/Anna Shoemaker and Ghostpulse
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Foreign Air got together when Jacob Michael’s former rock band U.S. Royalty split in 2017 and he came to work with Jesse Clasen whose own rock bands The Bear Romantic and HRVRD had played shows with U.S. Royalty. For their band together the duo tapped into a more electronic music production approach to crafting lush pop songs. The sound is can range from lo-fi, spare but energetic post-punk flavored pop to enveloping melodic haze given solidity with organic instrumentation. The advance tracks from the new Foreign Air album Hello Sunshine finds the band using the sound palette of modern indie pop and funk with an ear toward more unconventional arrangements and rapid adding and dropping of layers to convey not just gradations of sonic saturation but in doing so the emotional as well. Anna Shoemaker’s 2022 debut album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) is a collection of sharply observed sketches of lived experience expressed through gritty guitar pop and quiet-loud dynamics akin to 90s alternative rock. But as with lyrics like on her new single “I’m Your Guy” Shoemaker’s songwriting subverts convention by threading her songs with modern electronic details that give the music some unexpected turns of phrase in parallel with her taking relationship, gender and sexuality norms in pop music and turning them over in a way that is both rebellious and gives those normally not in the usual power structure of culture another way of imagining how things can be and dispensing with othering.

Anna Shoemaker, photo by Emma Berson

Saturday | 09.24
What: Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends w/Almanac Man and An Antiquated Bluff
When: 8:30
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: To the casual listener Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends may sound like they listened to a lot of stoner rock and Monster Magnet before forming this band but there is something subversive in the way the group has used its music to challenge transphobia and hideously lazy and destructive thinking in general. Its 2022 split with The Erratic Retaliator Strategy is part noise rock and part philosophical exploration of social phenomena with titles like “Competitive Grief” and “The Misplaced Optimism of the Doomed.” That’s keeping it real. Also on the bill is Denver-based experimental noise rock band Almanac Man and emo Americana math rock phenom An Antiquated Bluff whose own songs examine and attempt to exorcise the anguish of external and internalized oppression.

Trentemøller , photo by Karen Rosetzky

Sunday | 09.25
What: Trentemøller w/TOM & his Computer
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Anders Trentemøller has been perfecting his particular fusion of moody rock and the electronic under the project moniker of his surname since 2006. The tonally cool downtempo of his earlier albums seemed to anticipate and transcend the forthcoming darkwave movement of the 2010s as his own minimalist compositions organically unfolded to enhance the nuanced melancholy of the song lyrics. In 2022 the songwriter released his latest album Memoria which features the usual reconciliation of thematic and musical contrasts with gritty, saturated synth and ethereal melodic drift over steady beats all conspiring to produce a dynamic that seems aimed at raising spirits against the gloom of the album’s subject matter of acceptance of when things feel off or aren’t going how one might prefer. It gives an element of complexity that feels like a process you’d need to go to shed deep seated regret and process bittersweet memories without forgetting what made them significant.

Laveda, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 09.25
What: Laveda w/Isadora Eden, Nina De Freitas and Alana Mars
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Laveda from Albany, NY is a dream pop/shoegaze band whose gorgeously lush melodies and warmly evocative singing never masks its all too real and bracing assessments of the world as it is and the challenges we face and the feelings we go through as we try to navigate a culture and society that isn’t giving an adequate response to the specter of climate disaster, fiscal malfeasance from the top, legislative and judicial corruption and all the ways the powerful are making life more difficult for those not in positions of power on a granular level. Sure, ethereal, heavy guitars but as a kind of ambient catharsis and path to staying out of the pits of despair even while giving voice to the concerns that when they hit you at once can paralyze your psyche. But also enjoyable as one of the best new shoegaze bands operating in America.

Julia Jacklin, photo by Nick Mckk

Monday | 09.26
What:
Julia Jacklin w/Katy Kirby
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On her new album Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin makes uncertainty seem so comforting and reassuring. Like her 2019 album Crushing, this new album has concepts guiding its exploration of themes one does not often hear in music written in a way that sounds like something that landed in the Twenty-First Century from the 1960s with the wash of melody accomplished with spare, organic musical elements in miniature orchestral fashion and Jacklin’s introspective vocal style that seems to draw out the nuances of emotion and psychological details of how we feel that can often be brushed under in the push of the raw, face fronting emotional experience. Jacklin emphasizes the whole picture in its lived experience. On Pre Pleasure she makes acceptance of unresolved feelings and situations seem as satisfying as we’re going to get out of so many circumstances in life.

Monday | 09.26
What: Rein w/DJ Eli and Niq V
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Swedish darkwave/industrial artist Rein makes a stop in Denver after her performance at the Coldwaves festival in Chicago. Her blend of synth pop and a gritty and stylized delivery that balances aggression and grace like a more Goth-y Youth Code and more steeped in 90s EBM but with the same sort of punk style and spirited performance.

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Foreign Resort, Hapax and Plague Garden
When: 8
Where: HQ
Why: Also fresh off their performances at Coldwaves X in Chicago are Depeche Mod-esque, Danish post-punk band The Foreign Resort and the urgent and almost strident melancholic sound of HAPAX from Naples, Italy. Local support from Plague Garden’s whose emotionally charged, electronically infused post-punk is well outside the cookie cutter trendiness that can be heard in too much modern post-punk and darkwave.

Tatsuya Nakatani, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 09.27
What: The Nakatani Gong Orchestra w/Ryan McRyhew and Ben Donehower
When: 7:30
Where: Scorpio Palace
Why: Master percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani brings his 10-piece gong orchestra for an intimate performance at Scorpio Palace (formerly known as Rhinoceropolis). Nakatani will conduct the ensemble in performance with bowed gong. Prior to the 10-person performance there will be a trio comprised of Nakatani and local improvisors Ryan McRyhew, aka Ntrancer who will utilize a Hordijk system, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Donehower who some may know for his avant-pop project Petite Garçon. Seating is limited for this unique performance and doors are 7:30 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 8 p.m.

Genesis Owusu, photo by Bailey Howard

Tuesday | 09.27
What: Khruangbin w/Tennis, Vieux Farka Touré and Genesis Owusu
When: 5
Where: Civic Center Park
Why: Houston’s Khruangbin has emerged as one of the most popular bands to have emerged from modern American psychedelic rock. It’s sound has trended more toward a upbeat funk and soul sound like the kind of music you’d expect to hear as a regular guest on a modern incarnation of Soul Train. On its 2020 album Mordechai it certain seems to tape into the energy and style of later P-Funk and the kind of mutant funk of early 99 Records bands. But whatever the exact aesthetic one might try to push on Khruangbin its music defies easy pigeonholing and has as much in common with the aforementioned as it does with W.I.T.C.H. and Afrobeat. Opener Owusu Genesis is a Ghanaian-Australian artist who doesn’t just make music but designs his own fashion and those impulses seem to inform each other in an asymmetrical way in that he mixes and matches styles and aesthetics to create something uniquely his own. With rich synth work and polyrhythms his music might be considered hip-hop but his vocal style is decidedly different and playful and imaginative the way one might hear an analog of in Thundercat’s solo material where it would be difficult to pigeonhole him as well. His 2021 debut album Smiling with No Teeth is a genre busting delight of experimental hip-hop and electronic pop.

Pale Waves, photo by Kelsi Luck

Wednesday | 09.28
What: Pale Waves w/Gatlin
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Underneath Pale Waves’ effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Pale Waves recently released its third album Unwanted on August 12, 2022.

The Luka State, photo by Rob Blackham

Friday | 09.30
What: The Luka State w/Micky James
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Luka State from Winsford, Cheshire brings its tour to Denver ahead of the release of its sophomore full length The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. If its new single “Stick Around” is any indication the group isn’t short on the anthemic melodies that drove its earlier releases. Its live show looks more fiery and intense than one might expect from songs coming from a place of seeming thoughtful vulnerability.


Best Shows in Denver March 2022

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen
Monolord, photo by Josefine Larsson

Wednesday | 03.09
What: Monolord w/Firebreather and The Munsens
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Monolord formed in 2013 at a time when the whole wave of stoner rock was pretty much over and before doom metal hits its ascendency later in that decade. Its members had been part of a more boogie rock oriented band Marulk but at rehearsal had riffed in more drawn out dynamics and sustained atmospherics while incorporating those impulses into coherent songwriting. So its current sound while rooted in what is now called doom metal contains melodic elements lend its crushing rhythmic leads an accessibility that sounds more like an updated version of power metal. The group’s 2021 album Your Time to Shine is arguably its most streamlined manifestation of an aesthetic that draws on the psychedelic heaviness of Sleep and Kylesa and infuses it with its own impulse to impart a mood of catharsis and triumph to its listeners.

Owosso, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 03.11
What: Owosso, Moon Pussy, Church Van and Gestapo Pussy Ranch
When: 9 p.m. doors, 9:30 p.m. show
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Moon Pussy’s scorched earth noise rock and underpinnings in musical experimentation can be disorienting in the best way. Like Big Black with creatively expressive human drums instead of a drum machine. This will be Owosso’s first show. The group is comprised of veterans of the local punk/post-hardcore and indie rock scenes including people from Modern Goon. The group was been described as “post indie wook rock” but it’s hopefully safe to assume it’s not some ironic jam band with punk roots. Though if it is it’ll probably be alright anyway considering the band’s lineage.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mitski w/Michelle
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Mitski released her latest album Laurel Hell in 2022 and it is arguably her most vulnerable and raw album while also her most poignantly melancholic. Few other artists have articulated the disillusionment of the current era and the perils of an over mediated culture with as much precision and resonance as Mitski over the course of her two most recent records. As a live performer Mitski always has something different in her repertoire like on her most recent tour in 2019 when she had stage sets and a costume that looked like somewhere between a workout suit and a martial arts dancer uniform.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Jen Korte & The Loss, Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds and Heated Bones
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Jen Korte & The Loss this time out is basically her excellent experimental singer-songwriter project Lady Gang but with a full band instead of pulling off the full range of sounds herself. But it’ll still be Korte deep diving into emotionally rich explorations of hurt, resilience and the complex nuances of human experiences and relationships. Korte’s imaginative musicianship and songwriting elevates her work beyond the usual expectations one might have when one thinks of singer-songwriter. Her body of work is eclectic and runs a range of Americana, indie rock, folk and what might be described as experimental pop with loops and electronics. Many artists reach a point where they rest on their laurels and Korte hasn’t done so.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mayhem w/Watain and Midnight
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Mayhem is indeed the legendary black metal band from Norway whose lore and history is worth looking into for the lurid details alone. It makes for a fascinating origin story. But the music and its harrowing and heavy sweeps of epic storytelling speaks for itself as does the unforgettable stage presence of frontman Attila Csihar who always brings a deep sense of theater and performance art to every one of his performances whether with Mayhem or SunnO))). The show will be worth it to see what he does alone and that chilling, sepulchral, operatic voice.

Sunday | 03.13
What: Drug Church, One Step Closer, Soul Blind and Lurk
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is a band that has managed to bridge the sonic worlds of pop punk, hardcore and noise rock with super catchy hooks and made powerful and meaningful music in the process. Currently touring in support of its forthcoming album Hygiene out March 11, 2022.

SUMAC, photo by Reid Haithcock

Sunday | 03.13
What: Sumac w/Blood Spore and Patrick Shiroishi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: SUMAC formed in 2014 when Kurt Ballou of Converge connected guitarist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer, House of Low Culture) who had written the initial elements of songs with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn to help realize Turner’s vision of crafting the heaviest music of his career then thus far. Brian Cook of Russian Circles and formerly of These Arms Are Snakes and Botch rounded out the classic and current line-up in time for the group’s debut album. The resulting four albums since (The Deal from 2015, What One Becomes in 2016, Love in Shadow out 2018 and May You Be Held released in 2020) are indeed some of the heaviest records of recent years. But as with Turner’s other projects it’s never just heavy for the sake of that quality, it’s intricate and imaginative, emotionally charged soundscapes in which the contributions of all the players seems to be highlighted. Certainly with the most recent album it’s not relentlessly crushing dynamics but a flood of textures seemingly elevated in a suspended and sustained whirlpool of sound that rushes through you and then out like experiencing a state of being. Calling it post-metal or sludge metal is one way of giving people an idea of what they’re in for but the music itself has more in common with artists like Neurosis and SunnO))) than with some other bands lumped under those genre designations. Perhaps it is conceived of as a mind-altering experience to perform and thus witness when you’re in the room with it live. The fact that SUMAC has collaborative albums with noise legend Keiji Haino who is highly selective with whom he does work speaks much to how SUMAC isn’t merely a metal or heavy band.

Turner has long been a champion of forward thinking underground music since the 90s with his label Hydra Head Records which issued releases from the likes of Boris, Big Business, Cave In, Daughters, Dälek, Jesu, Kayo Dot, Oxbow, Khanate, Harvey Milk, Xasthur and The VSS. Its roster is a kind of who’s who of heavier experimental music of its heyday. Through the label and touring Turner has had a vehicle for exploring his creative interests in music and visual art which brings an added dimension to SUMAC’s releases as well and the ethos with which the band operates. On its current tour the group will be joined by purveyors of death doom Blood Spore and Los Angeles-based avant-garde saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. Listen to our interview with Aaron Turner on Bandcamp.

Lala Lala, photo by Miwah Lee

Monday | 03.14
What: Lala Lala w/Elton Aura
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lillie West was already stretching the boundaries of music that might loosely grouped under the vague term “indie rock” earlier in her career with imaginative pop songwriting. But with her 2021 album I Want The Door To Open with Yoni Wolf as co-producer she finely tunes her soundscapes as perfect complements to her expressively ethereal vocals andan exploration of themes of where an artist fits in with a world in which they often need to make their own lives the fodder for some of their most meaningful work and how that can affect your sense of self. It’s a bit like synth pop for fans of Holly Herndon or Virginia Wing.

Monday | 03.14
What: Portrayal of Guilt w/End, Yashira and Wake
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Portrayal of Guilt might be described as a post-hardcore, grindcore adjacent noise rock band with the visceral live quality all that implies. But there is a bit of the irreverent trickster to their presentation and their 2021 album Christfucker was sent out in a jacket that displayed the letters “ST” like “Self-Titled” so that maybe the record could be stealth sold at record stores in more conservative areas of the country and as a signal to fans of the ridiculousness of actual censorship and not the myth of it perpetrated by bad faith actors. Wake from Calgary, Alberta is of like mind and its 202 album Devouring Ruin is like a psychedelic flavor of later era Napalm Death.

Choir Boy, photo by Jordan Utley

Tuesday | 03.15
What: Choir Boy w/Riki
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Choir Boy is a post-punk band from Salt Lake City that has garnered a bit of a cult following in recent years for its tender, synth-pop ballads about loss and desire recalling the likes of the more melancholic end of Thompson Twins and Felt. Riki sounds like she came from an alternate dimension where she had a career making sensual pop songs for David Lynch movies with her soulfully expressive voice. Elements like cool jazz saxophone and chimes that might sound cheesy and dates in the music of other people just sounds perfect for the mood Riki has evoked of late night adventures in secret Bohemian dives across two albums: her 2020 self-titled and Gold from 2021. Not many artists have a maintained a mystique to them but Niff Nawor aka Riki certain has.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.17
What: Wayfarer w/Midwife and Snakes
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Denver’s Wayfarer is finally getting to celebrate the release of its 2020 album A Romance With Violence and bringing its flavor of dark Americana, at turns spaghetti western and doomy black metal, to stage bigger stages. This night the band’s guests are Midwife and her intensely evocative and poignant ambient folk and art country/dark pop supergroup Snakes.

Thursday | 03.17
What: Ellen Allien w/Mr. Frick and Mort.Domed
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Ellen Allien aka Ellen Fraatz makes a rare appearance in Denver and brings her experimental style of techno that is somewhere between minimal, IDM and acid house with an imaginative flair that can seem subtle until you listen to her work alongside other artists in similar realms of music.

Squirrel Flower, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 03.17
What: Squirrel Flower w/Tenci
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower recently released Planet EP, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2021 sophomore album Planet (i). Her gritty yet introspective songs like “Hurt A Fly” are so honest and real about her mistakes and shortcomings you feel that deeply in your own heart. Williams really has a gift for creating strong imagery and emotional impressions and matching it with songwriting that is simultaneously forceful and vulnerable like she respects your time with the music and wants it to be a fortifying experience to give it a listen.

NightWraith, photo by Holden Kudla

Friday | 03.18
What: NightWraith album release w/Space in Time, Ghosts of Glaciers and Ashes For the Mute
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Calling any band a “supergroup” is a bit of a misnomer but Denver’s NightWraith has a major pedigree of Denver metal and art rock luminaries including the following with their past and current bands in parentheses as applicable: Benjamin Pitts (To Be Eaten, The New Rome, False Cathedrals, Vimana, Black Sleep of Kali, In The Company of Serpents, Giant Eyeball and others), Igor Panasewicz (Valiomierda, Vimana, Necrosophik Abyss, Abhoria), Isidro “Spy” Soto (Ashes For The Mute, Primitive Man), Caleb Tardio (I Sank Molly Brown) and Jerry Hilger (who is just the affable guy you run into in the scene regularly and wonder when he was going to be in a band). In 2019 NightWraith put out its excellent self-titled debut but on this night the outfit celebrates the unleashing of its new record Offering (available digitally, on CD and limited edition vinyl starting March 25). The early singles highlight the way this quintet brings together melodic riffs with epic sensibilities and black metal grit for an orchestral display of a particularly glorious brand of heavy metal. There is a playfulness to the songs that also doesn’t detract from the heaviness of the riffs and the elegantly precise dynamics. Also on the bill is the psychedelic hard rock and metal of Space In Time whose own hybrid influences from the likes of Hawkwind, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep has resulted in an always surprisingly powerful performance. You also get to see the instrumental post-metal band Ghosts of Glaciers and cosmic black metal outfit Ashes For The Mute in which “Spy” will be doing double duty for the night. Clearly the best metal show of the week.

Lost Walks, photo courtesy the band

Friday | 03.18
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and f-ether
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LFX Filmworks
Why: Lost Walks released its weighty and harrowing new album Blood Lantern in December 2021. The theatrical, dark Americana of Wolf, Woman, Man, its 2017 debut album, is still at the root of this new batch of music but the band which collaborates with a regular dance troupe for its performances shed some of the folk and blues aspects of its prior musical incarnation in any obvious ways and sounds now more like Neurosis except that Dameon Merkl still sounds like the mysterious and charismatic figure you want to narrate a future documentary about H.P. Lovecraft. Also for this show you get to see members of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club bring their own imaginative and compelling style of gritty old time music and theater while f-ether performs his own highly refined and stylized techno and house-informed electronic soundscapes. Considering the venue expect more than a touch of theater to the show.

Friday | 03.18
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and De Gringos y Gremmies
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock revival band originally based out of Huntsville, Alabama but now out of Houston. But that doesn’t quite do justice to the legend of this band that you hear from anyone that has seen them from not just the kaiju (giant monsters in Japanese popular culture i.e. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others not so well known) aesthetic and themes but also the kabuki masks, the use of fire when they can and energetic/borderline unhinged live performances that are part of the lore of the group as well. But make no mistake, yeah, a surf rock revival band but one with chops and imagination and not the rote surf rock that has plagued the indie underground for way too long. Think more like Man Or Astro-man or The Mermen. As for TripLip, some journalist wrote this about them in 2013 and they are a much neglected local institution: “A drum and bass instrumental duo (not in the EDM sense, of course), TripLip can’t be said to fit into any particular musical subgenre. Reminiscent only of a a band these two guys have probably never heard of — Denver’s The Hellmen, because of its perfect fusion of jazz, punk, noise rock and surf with flourishes of improvisational funk — it can safely be said that TripLip isn’t following any trends, local or otherwise, because there’s nothing trendy about what the act is doing. The outfit’s solid musicianship and sonic creativity is refreshingly out of time and place, and it’s always interesting. – Tom Murphy, Westword. 11/24/2013”

Saturday | 03.19
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and Florea
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LF Filmworks
Why: See above on 3.19 but for this show the introspective and dusky folk of Florea will open the proceedings.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 03.19
What: Circle Jerks w/Negative Approach and 7 Seconds
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Circle Jerks were one of the earliest and one of the most enduringly influential hardcore bands out of Southern California in the late 70s with former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris. Morris’ surreal and absurdly wry sense of humor and self-deprecating social commentary informed much of the band’s material which can be lost in flood of energy of the live show and Morris’ exuberant energy as a vocalist. This tour is technically the 40 year reunion tour that was supposed to happen in 2020 but everyone knows what happens there so here’s your chance to see the Jerks in high form with Morris, guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and Joey Castillo formerly of Queens of the Stone Age joining on drums. But wait, there’s more. Negative Approach is also one of the pioneering bands of hardcore having formed in Detroit and fronted by one of the most elemental vocalists of our time in John Brannon. Brutal, nihilistic and desperate in lyrics and crushing and devastating in sound. And then of course 7 Seconds from Reno, Nevada also helped to lay the foundations of hardcore beginning in 1980 with the fast and hard dynamics with a core of catchy melodicism that helped shape a body of work that in itself has inspired generations of punk bands since.

Saturday | 03.19
What: Daikiju, TripLip and friends
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: The Matchbox
Why: See above on 3.18 for this show in case you had to miss that performance.

Monday | 03.21
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and Ego Death
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Final chance to catch Daikaiju with TripLip before the touring band hits the road for places out west.

Monday | March 21
What: W.I.T.C.H. w/Night Beats and Mauskovic Dance Band
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Incredibly W.I.T.C.H. is the Zamrock band formed in the 1970s meaning of course that they’re pioneers of the unique flavor of psychedelic rock that happened in Zambia during that decade before multiple forces led to the demise of the movement by the mid-1980s. Articles have written about the movement and vinyl reissues of classics by Witch and of course Ngozi Family lead to a resurgence in interest in that era of music and the reunion of Witch in 2012. Not often you get to catch legends like this in the flesh. But also on the bill is the great psychedelic garage rock band Night Beats from Seattle who were always weirder and more interesting than most of the recent wave of American psychedelia. Also opening is Mauskovic Dance Band whose blend of cumbia, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Krautrock sensibilities will fit right in with the headliners.

Jawbox, photo by Pete Duvall

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Jawbox w/despAIR Jordan
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Jawbox emerged from the vibrant late 80s and early 90s post-punk/post-hardcore DC punk scene to go on to become one of the most influential guitar bands of the 90s and beyond. Its 1991 debut album Grippe is like the missing link between Dinosaur Jr and midwest post-punk and hardcore like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun. But the beautifully atonal and angular “Savory” from the 1994 album For Your Own Special Sweetheart, the band’s major label debut, was a surprise hit during that era before the alternative rock being championed by major labels was a watered down version of the music seemingly flooding forth in the early part of the decade. Jawbox split in 1997 and didn’t reunite except briefly in 2009 until 2019 though in 2021 founding member Bill Barbot left the group replaced by War on Women guitarist and singer Brooks Harlan. Opening the show is Denver’s despAIR Jordan whose own post-punk flavor is as informed by melodic hardcore as it is the atmospheric, melancholic variety.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Yves Tumor
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Yves Tumor is like the Prince of experimental electronic music whose exuberant stage presence is as colorful as Bowie at peak weirdness but whose sensibilities and aesthetic are very much of the present. That their music has been coming out on Warp Records is saying something about the forward thinking quality of the songcraft and for someone who many might consider a weird hip-hop artist, Tumor has cited Throbbing Gristle as a major influence.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: New Candys and Mint Field w/Wave Decay
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze. Mexico City’s Mint Field brings its own ambient/shoegaze soundscapes to the show with touches of psych folk and cinematic aesthetics making what can often be abstract music that transports you to other spaces into something that feels deeply personal. Wave Decay’s soothing dream pop sound combines motorik beats with gossamer melodies.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Indigo De Souza w/Field Medic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.

Wombo, photo by Fallon

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Wombo, Apollo Shortwave and H-Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat has been a fixture of underground American art punk. Somewhere between angular post-punk, funk and jazz, the duo’s releases have been varied and always interesting with viscerally impactful and fun live shows. Its forthcoming album Nightclub Daydreaming has all the hallmarks of a great Ed Schrader offering with intricate rhythmic minimalism but decidedly moodier and more atmospheric than we’ve come to expect from the project’s rich sonic palette. Wombo’s psychedelic alternative rock with the dispassionate vocals have been one of the more consistently interesting left field bands out of the indie milieu of recent years that fans of Dry Cleaning and Ganser might appreciate. H-Lite’s electronic experiments unites minimal techno with a more playful and expansive type of glitchcore.

Lightning Bolt, photo by Nick Sayers

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Lightning Bolt w/Problems
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Saying that Lightning Bolt is a noise rock duo is a little like saying a hurricane is a storm. Doesn’t quite cover it. Though only a duo, Lightning Bolt seems to produce more sound than one might expect from just two people and its aggressive rhythms and explosive live performances are like small scale riot of their own. Which one might expect from a group from Providence, Rhode Island where some of the wildest and noisiest bands of the modern era (Mind Flayer, Arab on Radar, Six Finger Satellite and The Body to name a few) have come from over the past 30 years. Sonic Citadel, the band’s 2019 and latest album, is a masterclass of constant motion and barely controlled chaos and inspired weirdness. In place are also the usual rambunctious soundscape of intense yet modulated drums, processed vocals, distorted bass played both for rhythm and as accents in a call and response dynamic with lyrics sung with a nearly unhinged style. If you’ve never seen Lightning Bolt be prepared for pretty much anything to happen except that it’ll be more fun than you can usually have in a small rock club. Problems is the strange yet also fascinating techno house music project of Darren Keen based out of Lincoln, Nebraska whose 2020 album Ought Not Be Overthought is worth a listen for anyone interested in electronic music that doesn’t have obvious connections to what anyone else is doing yet remains accessible to most people.

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Dance With The Dead & Magic Sword w/Das Mortal
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Dance With The Dead is a synthwave band currently touring on the festival circuit and in support of its new album Driven To Madness. But a major reason to go to this show is to see Boise’s Magic Sword whose own mix of fantasy and science fiction imagery and hard rock synthwave is on another level than most like-minded artists as the band members perform as space knights and other than differently colored costume lights largely anonymously. With a handful of albums out and their own comic, Magic Sword is consistently entertaining and its music though technically born out of a gimmick has an appeal far beyond that like the kind of retro science fiction action movie soundtrack for a film that has yet to be made.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.24
What: Yob w/True Widow and Glacial Tomb
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Yob guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt founded Yob in 1996 after spending some years in hardcore bands in Eugene, Oregon. The mid-90s weren’t exactly the height of the popularity for metal of any kind but in embracing the kind of heavy music that was being called “stoner rock” in the 90s but today the sludgy, sometimes psychedelic, metal might be called doom or post-metal depending on where on the stylistic spectrum the music falls. But whatever genre tags one might put on what Yob has done at this point its newer music as having emerged on both Clearing the Path to Ascend and Our Raw Heart has more than a little in common with experimental heavy artists like Neurosis and Isis (the former having been released on Neurot Recordings). Despite the sometimes cosmic bent of the lyrics and themes of mortality and struggle there is a real joy to the band’s live performances that draws you in for a shared catharsis. Denver death doom band Glacial Tomb opens the show and in the middle is True Widow from Dallas whose blend of doom and shoegaze is entrancingly melodic and moody.

Friday | 03.25
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan is a pioneer of synth pop whose work with his old band Tubeway Army along with the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Fad Gadget and Human League brought a sophistication of creative vision, nuanced social commentary and inventive incorporation of synthesizers into well-crafted pop songs proved influential on a generations of other artists. Numan forged a solo career for himself with 1979’s The Pleasure Principle and the hit single “Cars.” Since that time Numan has reliably experimented with technology and his own songwriting approach in ways that proved to be an influence on many of the more popular industrial bands of the 80s and 90s including Nine Inch Nails. Pick up anywhere in Numan’s recent catalog and there is worthwhile material including his 2021 album Intruder with its thoughtful commentary on climate change and its impact on the world and not just one human civilization. I Speak Machine is an electronic artist of recent years whose own synthscapes recall the era of music Numan helped to establish with horror cinema aesthetics and a live show to match. Definitely for fans of ADULT. and Xeno and Oaklander.

Saturday | 03.26
What: Quits w/Endless Nameless, Sell Farm and Pythian Whispers
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Quits is like the Hasil Adkins of post-hardcore noise rock. Endless Nameless are like the Iceburn collective of post-Canadian instrumental art shoegaze. Sell Farm is the Townes Van Zandt of doom industrial twee. Pythian Whispers is the Hüsker Dü of elevated Krautrock. These absurd characterizations are true in spirit so come on down and see for yourself. Full disclosure, the author of this bit is in Pythian Whispers.

Dust City Opera, photo by Gracie Meier

Saturday | 03.26
What: Dust City Opera w/Split Lips
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its new album Alien Summer with its colorful story arc of science fiction, horror and the drama of the human experience. The sound mixes a bit of the group’s dark Americana with fuzzy rock grit to lend all of the songs more of an edge than one might assume given the band’s theatrical presentation. The new album sounds like something that could have come out of the later era indiepop bands steeped in the 90s version of that music like Beulah or Red Pony Clock but with a bit more refinement of sound.

Sunday | 03.27
What: Kat Von D w/Prayers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kat Von D is perhaps best known as a tattoo artist who has been in a couple of reality shows related to the profession. But in 2021 she released her debut album Love Made Me Do It and its mix of darkwave and synthpop is surprisingly accomplished. Her set alone with be worth seeing but opening is her husband Rafael Reyes’ band Prayers who garnered a good deal of attention as a “Cholo Goth” band when really Prayers is just one of the best modern electronic post-punk bands with a bit more actual edge to go along with the moody soundscapes and intense and dramatic lyrics.

The Spirit of the Beehive, photo courtesy the artists

Monday | 03.28
What: The Spirit of the Beehive w/Deeper
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spirit of the Beehive probably seemed like a slightly weird indie rock/pop band early in its career but anyone that has been paying attention across the arc of its albums it’s like the Philadelphia-based group has been pulling back the veils of normalcy and convention with every album. Pleasure Suck and its hazy atmospherics and melodic left turns was reminiscent of something Black Moth Super Rainbow or Stargazer Lilies might do. This shifting to more experimental songwriting continued on 2018’s Hypnic Jerks with an approach to songwriting and structure reminiscent of cinema rather than simply music. With Entertainment, Death (2021), The Spirit of the Beehive is further opening its Pandora’s Box of unexpected tonal experiments, textures and raw sound composition to craft pop songs unlike much of anything anyone is making, even genius weirdos like Deerhoof. Often the songs sound like you’re stepping into a room in a horror movie funhouse and not sure where to find the exit and find you like it there. Deeper is one of Chicago’s bright post-punk stars and their album Auto Pain is something akin to music The Cure might have done if they had gone the route of angular art rock and emerged in the 2010s having been impacted by The Rapture and Women.

Monday | 03.28
What: Blunt Bangs (Athens, GA), Supreme Joy, Moodlighting and Public Opinion
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Blunt Bangs from Athens, GA includes Reggie Youngblood formerly of buzz indie band Black Kids. But this project is like power pop with a touch of soul. The Big Star influence is obvious but the self-aware lyrics are very much in tune with the social environment of today and the cultural touchstones and lingo of the moment and a poignant portrait of the struggles young people have navigating relationships and a world that seems to make most aspects of life challenging for everyone. Blunt Bangs also includes Eli Saragoussi formerly of psychedelic garage rock phenoms Hair Cult. Also on the bill are Ryan Wong’s lo-fi post-punk band Supreme Joy and twee dream pop outfit Moodlighting who are set to release their new album Boy Wonder with a show at the Hi-Dive on May 5, 2022.

Glove, photo by Ivana Cajin

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Nation of Language w/Glove and Ducks Ltd.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Nation of Language released its debut album Introduction, Presence in 2020 at a time when no one could or did tour but its bass-driven, moody synth pop songs were reminiscent of early OMD in a way worthy of that obvious influence. The group’s 2021 album A Way Forward was aptly named because the synthesizers came more to the front for a starker yet richer sound overall. It initially recalled Magnetic Fields’ 1995 album Get Lost and its rhythms and pacing seemed to draw on Krautrock influences like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia and Ashra. And an exploration of OMD’s 1983 artpop masterpiece Dazzle Ships. But whatever the influences or inspirations, Nation of Language has fused the avant-garde with pop in a way with modern methods that draw you in and induce a mood of looking toward a future of possibilities. Glove is a post-punk/darkwave band from Tampa, Florida, a city rightfully more well known for its influential death metal milieu. But Glove’s knack for composing songs that wed energetic rhythms with pulsing low end to melancholic mood may do something toward changing that impression. Its new album Boom Nights breaks free from the cookie cutter darkwave sound that has emerged with more lo-fi recordings. Glove’s album has not slick production so much as strong. Reminiscent of The Prids and Modern English circa Mesh & Lace. Ducks Ltd. from Toronto, Ontario released Modern Fiction on Carpark in 2021 and its ebullient jangle pop sounded like a mix of New Order, all that great 80s Kiwi rock and groups out of the C86 movement of that era. But the content of the songs were inspired by an examination of modern human civilization in decay and its impacts on our lives on a very personal level. The songwriters also took some cues from the fiction of Graham Greene whose life in MI6 and fiction were likely the model of spy fiction to follow.

Greet Death, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Dummy, Greet Death, Infant Island, American Culture, Dirt Sucker, Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: [Greet Death and Infant Island show moved to this event due to issues with Meadowlark Bar] Dummy from Los Angeles released its latest album Mandatory Enjoyment in 2021 and immediately established itself as a band to watch with its consistently fascinating soundscapes somewhere betwixt post-punk, Krautrock, indie pop and whatever avant-garde mix of all that you’d call Stereolab. Greet Death is the kind of modern shoegaze band that sounds like its members came up through post-hardcore or some kind of punk or metal as its guitar work has some nice sharp edges even as its soundscapes sound like the shattered glass of disappointed emotions. Its 2019 album New Hell is overflowing with a sublime catharsis that genre bends in ways that one doesn’t hear much in this realm of music. Unless you’re listening to Drowse or another band with seemingly similar roots and an ear for vulnerable emotional expressions put very much forward. American Culture from Denver is no stranger to these hybrid musical impulses and singer Chris Adolf has been someone who never limits himself to a narrow genre though an innovator in indiepop going back to the 90s with bands like Love Letter Band, Bad Weather California, V-Tech Orchid and the various musical incarnations of American Culture with its Cure-esque guitar soundscapes and raw yet tenderly executed vocals. Candy Apple from Denver might be considered hardcore but only if you include the influence of early Christian Death and maybe Jesus and Mary Chain.

Video Vision, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Video Vision w/DJ Julian Black and DJ Niq V
When: 9 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Video Vision is a post-punk/deathrock band from Athens, Georgia whose 2021 album Inked in Red feels both melodramatic and intimately rendered. Sounds like something plucked from the early 80s except for the synth treatments which feel very modern. The male and female vocals recall the dynamics you’d hear in a 45 Grave song but with more ethereal music, just that grit and confidence seems very much in place.

Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier

Wednesday and Thursday | 03.30 and 03.31
What: Wilderado w/flipturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Though Wilderado released its self-titled debut album in October 2021, the band originally based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, now out of Los Angeles, has put in its time over the last seven years honing its songcraft and performances through regular touring. Its sounds sound like they were written with acoustic guitar in a living room contemplating a feeling or a thought that strikes you so strongly you end up writing it down or committing it to memory as best you can. But those skeletons of songs get the full-fledged manifestation across an album of lively pop songs that are stronger for having been worked out before any adornments and embellishments are added.

Wednesday | 03.30
What: Black Ends (Seattle), Sell Farm, Joseph Lamar and Fainting Dreams (members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Black Ends and its “gunk pop” sounds like something you’d get if you took an experimental punk band and found a way to deconstruct the traditional sounds and structures into this melted mutant version. Meaning it’s more original than most things you’ll see actually on tour and would have found a home on Siltbreeze in the 2000s alongside Pink Reason, Eat Skull and the like. Sell Farm is a dub-industrial-indie pop band whose own sound experiments in real time pretty much place it outside all trendy styles happening right now which is always a reason to go see a band. Joseph Lamar is a glam R&B space alien whose soulful vocals can’t be constrained by convention either and his songwriting while hyper tuneful also colors outside the lines of expectation. If Fainting Dreams includes members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos and still playing this show they’re probably using their considerable musical talents and chops to make something unusual and interesting as well.

Thursday | 03.31
What: Prism Bitch w/Horse Girl and Bud Bronson & The Good Timers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Prism Bitch from Albuquerque, New Mexico fuses synth pop with garage rock in unpredictable ways while not compromising solid pop songwriting yet coming off very unfiltered and punk. Horse Girl is part inspired performance art and art pop with a show that always breaks that barrier between the spectator and performer in creative ways. Brilliant weirdos, always. Bud Bronson & The Good Timers is the best power pop band out of Denver. Full stop.

Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.31
What: Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Oftentimes when actors get into making music it’s either quaint, ill-considered our insufferable. But Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum which includes Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) alongside Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie) is shockingly good. Like a synth pop glam rock band. Its debut album THANKS FOR COMING comes off more like an art rock concept record the likes of which you’d expect more from the 1970s with strong ideas and commentary on life and society and ambitious songwriting. But with modern sensibilities like the musicians are well aware that Radiohead and Arcade Fire already happened. Its tonal exercises are poignant and evocative and the songs cinematic.

Best Shows in Denver 4/4/19 – 4/10/19

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Acid Mothers Temple perform at Larimer Lounge on April 8. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | April 4

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.

Who: A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.

Friday | April 5

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Modern Leisure circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faim, Sore Eyes (Springs), Bi-Proxy (first show, members of Herse, Caffeine and Eternal) and Implied Risk (first show)
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Faim is one of the great, noisy hardcore bands from Denver. Eruptive and pointed in its energy. If you go, you’ll also get to see the first show from a couple of other like-minded bands who are keeping local hardcore alive and interesting.

Who: Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.

Saturday | April 6

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Doo Crowder circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard
When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.

Who: FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release)
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.

Who: Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.

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Kero Kero Bonito, photo by Tracey Ng

Who: Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.

Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.

Who: Bad Sounds and Broods
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.

Who: An Evening With Spiritualized
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.

Sunday | April 7

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SUSTO, photo courtesy the artist

Who: SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone
When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.

Monday | April 8

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Mdou Moctar, photo by Nikkl Cells

Who: Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.

Who: Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.

Tuesday | April 9

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.

Who: Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.

Wednesday | April 10

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Morlox, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.

Who: DeVotchKa
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m.
Where: Twist & Shout
Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.

Who: Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.

Best Shows in Denver 9/13/18 – 9/19/18

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Angel Olsen performs at The Paramount Theatre on 9/17/18. Photo by Taylor Boylston

Thursday | September 13, 2018

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Joe Dosik, photo by Curtis Essel

Who: Joe Dosik w/Moonglade
When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.

What: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown
When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.

Who: Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.

Who: Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight
When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.

Friday | September 14, 2018

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Landgrabbers, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.

Who: Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush
When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year.
Who: UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla
When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.

Saturday | September 15, 2018

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Nothing, photo by Ben Rayner

Who: Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut
When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo Courtesy of Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Who: Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver)
Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.

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Eyebeams, black light poster image courtesy Eyebeams

Who: Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo)
When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.

Who: Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus
When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.

Sunday | September 16, 2018

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Luxury Hearse, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2 OUTS: An Electronic songwriter gathering: Pearls and Perils, Mirror Fears, And I, Keldari Station, Church Fire, Gold Trash, EVP, Panic Priest, Blackcell, Strange Powers, Lady of Sorrows, Juniordeer, $addy, eHpH, Nighttimeschoolbus, Luxury Hearse, Voight
When: Sunday, 09.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A veritable cornucopia of great Denver musicians writing songs using electronic instruments or, in the case of Voight, using a guitar but writing with electronic music sensibilities. If you go to one event the rest of the year and want a great and fairly broadly representative slice of Denver music that uses electronic instrumentation in a boundary-pushing, interesting way, there won’t be a better chance to see it all in one place because no one else is thinking of an event like this with the level of quality curation that went into it.

Who: WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos
When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.

Monday | September 17, 2018

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Angel Olsen circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Angel Olsen
When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.

Who: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers
When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.

Tuesday | September 18, 2018

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Nine Inch Nails, photo by Corinne Schiavone

Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.

Wednesday | September 19, 2018

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Who: Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: For Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco see above for 09.18.

Who: Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.

Who: The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.

Who: Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.

Who: Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 8/30/18 – 9/5/18

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CJ Boyd performs at various venues in Colorado this weekend. Photo circa 2008 by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 30, 2018

Who: A.M. Pleasure Assassins and CJ Boyd
When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery, Fort Collins
Why: Fort Collins’ great lo-fi post-punkers A.M. Pleasure Assassins share the stage with internationally renowned avant-garde punk/folk/ambient/one-man pastoral classical artist C.J. Boyd. The latter is one of the few artists in general that has played in all fifty of the United States. For a decade, Boyd has traversed the country and collaborated with artists from every state and written some of the most accessible and evocative experimental music that defies any absolute categorization. Pick up at any point in his extensive catalog and you’re in for something interesting that will stretch your musical horizons in some fashion. Boyd is playing other shows in Colorado on this leg of his tour and if you’re not able to make this Fort Collins gig it would be worth seeking out where those other shows are happening whether in a house or a DIY space in Colorado Springs like the new Flux Capacitor.

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Smokescreens, photo by Gina Clyne

Who: Smokescreens, The Molochs and American Culture
When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham were once members of Plateaus and Terry Malts having toured together during the ascent of the garage/psych revival. But by mid-decade both moved to Los Angeles where they formed Smokescreens out of a mutual love for the off-standard melodic strategy of American pop and more in the vein of New Zealand weirdo, jangle-y punk bands of the 80s on the Flying Nun imprint as well as noisier American music like The Velvet Underground and The Aislers Set. One might make a good case for some influence of The Feelies and a touch of Jay Reatard and No Age in there. All of those influences would mean nothing if the songwriters weren’t capable of doing anything interesting or original out of their own skill set. The band’s 2018 album Used to Yesterday is proof that Smokescreens is making some of the more sonically interesting, guitar-driven pop music today. Combining a tenderness and delicacy of tone and texture with great momentum and energy, Smokescreens is a band that is as idiosyncratic as its influences, which is no mean feat given Flying Nun’s catalog of unique greatness alone.

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The Magpie Salute, photo by David McLister

Who: The Magpie Salute w/Brent Cowles
When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Formed in 2016 by former members of Black Crowes including Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, The Magpie Salute is perhaps less beholden to the blues rock that was the bedrock of Black Crowes. At least if the band’s new album, 2018’s High Water 1 is any indication. Sure, some of the structure and tones are there but the sonic palette is broader with the band at this point. The title track suggests psych Americana but the album refreshingly doesn’t get stuck in a single mode, mood or dynamic. There’s a 70s feel to the record but one that gives you a greater appreciation for the details that make that songwriting style compelling even today even if you’re heard enough of that sort of thing. Robinson and his bandmates grew up with and within those musical traditions and with this band they’re giving those influences a renewed vitality that is oft-imitated and rarely manifested with this degree of credibility because it doesn’t feel forced and the highly developed songcraft born out of years playing in other bands speaks for itself.

Who: Equine, Tunica Externa, biostatic
When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Depth of sound field throughout this show with the guitar drones and tone sculpting of Equine, Tunica Externa’s super minimal soundscapes with guitar and loops and biostatic’s synth, live sampled trumpet and processed sounds. None of the artists is much alike, uses very different methods of making their sounds but all have grounded in a way of making music that isn’t rooted in any particular, pre-established style, which should be recommendation enough for going to this show if you’re looking for something well outside the mainstream.

Friday | August 31, 2018

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Brotherhood of Machines, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Under the Floorboards Celebration: Midwife, Bigawatt, Brotherhood of Machines, Curta and Multicast
When: Friday, 08.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: KGNU’s Under the Floorboards program showcases music that is decidedly left field. So this show will include the minimalist, ambient folk/lo fi production of Midwife, Bigawatt’s operatic avant-post-punk paired with experimental drummer Death Pose, Brotherhood of Machines’ Popol Vuh/dub techno-esque ambient in collaboration with Jake Danna of hip-hop duo Curta. And Multicast, which has been doing ambient music in Colorado for longer than most of the people in Colorado’s quite large ambient scene. With biostatic hosting and serving as a DJ for the night.

Who: Sympathy F
When: Friday, 08.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Sympathy F came on to Denver stages during the early days of the alternative rock era. Early members of the band included current guitarists Doug Seaman and Tony Morales (who has also been a vocalist in the band from the beginning) and both lived in a building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called The Blenheim, notable for its gateway looking like something from a medieval urban house, where they lived across the hall from future and current vocalist Elizabeth Rose who became fast friends with the two musicians who one day heard her singing along to the music they were writing. The band became a bit of a fixture in the local scene throughout the 90s, releasing one, self-titled album and a handful of cassette and compilation releases before the focus of the musicians went to other projects even though Sympathy F never disbanded. Over the past decade or so, the group has been more active and in 2016 releases its first album in over twenty years with its second self-titled album. It was a compilation of new and older recordings and demos that the members of the band rendered for a more modern release augmented by overdubs and a proper mixing and mastering treatment. At that time the band had intended to release a double album to get its backlog of material out into the world but that didn’t make sense and now the group is releasing what would have been the second half of the double album with a couple of new tracks that reflect new musical ideas that hint at where the group may go in the future with electronics a part of its lushly atmospheric, moody hard rock.The new album, available tonight, is The Blenheim, a nod to the band’s roots and the creative frisson that launched its fruitful and prolific, if not widely available on a recording until recently, career. See our upcoming interview with Seaman on the history of the band and its recent painstaking recording of at least one of its new songs.

Who: EVP w/Pearls and Perils and Gold Trash
When: Friday, 08.31, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Glasss Records occupies BarFly for the night. EVP’s pointed personal/political commentary informing its impassioned industrial noise pop will bring some edge to the laid back environs. Gold Trash’s noise-scape-y, beats collage electroclash will demonstrate how you can keep it weird and confrontational yet fun. Pearls and Perils makes downtempo R&B with a rich emotional quality and theatrical stage presence that is impossible to ignore.

Saturday | September 1, 2018

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Temple Tantrum Day 1
When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m.
Where: The Temple Studios
Why: Temple Tantrium is a two day festival that encourages attendees to arrive in costume and join in the festivities with twenty musical acts, fourteen art installations, comedy and performance art. For list of artists featured see below.
Music: Council of Word, Porcelain, F-ether, Halo Halo, Ginger Perry, JL Kane, R A R E B Y R D $, Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Plantrae

Visual/installation Artists: Ancient.Future, Charles Russel, Alex Anderson, Kat Nechleba, Kristina Rolander, Ryan Wurst, Izzy Jarvis, Regan Rosberg, Queen City Harlequinade, Kelly ShortNQueer, Tara Worley, Suchitra Mattai, Katine Lowe, Marsha Mack, Sandra Fettingus, Naomi Scheck, Joanne Shminke, Lori Owicz, Brendan Macleod.

Performance art and comedy: No Gods No Masters, Punketry, Gallagher Fest, Jessica L’Whor, Jaguar Morning Show

Who: Big Business w/Simulators and Quits
When: Saturday, 09.1, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Big Business is the sludge metal/noise rock band from Seattle comprised of former KARP and Murder City Devils members Jared Warren and Coady Willis. The duo spent a handful of years playing in Melvins where its bombastic, playful and joyous sound fit in with Melvins’ sense of the absurd. For this show the duo will be joined by sharp-edged post-punk band Simulators and eruptive noise rock supergroup Quits which includes former members of Denver-based noise rock outfits Sparkles and Hot White.

Who: Pink Fuzz LP release w/Love Gang and Boot Gun
When: Saturday, 09.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: BANDITS from Boulder honed its hard blues rock sound for a few years under that name before adopting its new moniker, Pink Fuzz. The group releases what may be it’s first full-length record tonight. Though not a stoner rock band, fans of bands like Fu Manchu and Nebula will probably find a lot to like here.

Sunday | September 2, 2018

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The Speedholes circa 2001, photo by Rebecca Bauer

What: Temple Tantrum Day 2
When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m.
Where: The Temple Studios
Why: See the entry for this event above on September 1, 2018. The list of visual/installation artists and performance art and comedy is the same. But musical guests for this day include: Machu Linea, MEEK, Entrancer, ETERNAL, Baby Tony & The Teenies, L.A. Zwicky, Oxeye Daisy, Vic N’ The Narwhals, NEEFF, Nasty Nachos and Pictureplane.

Who: Merrick 25th Anniversary Party with debut of Rocket Dust, Vashion Seeds and Sam & Catherine from AKA Belle
When: Sunday, 09.2, 5 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Kelly and Dan Merrick were members of noisy garage punk band The Speedholes in the 90s and early 2000s and were active participants in the vibrant Denver punk scene of that time. Both had roots in the Seattle underground scene of the 80s and 90s and were impacted by Denver musicians who made it to the Pacific Northwest regularly or even made it a home like maybe The Derelicts but certainly The Fluid and Spell. They’re celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the debut of their new band Rocket Dust with this show at Globe Hall.

Tuesday | September 5, 2018

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Mondo Obscura, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Mondo Obscura and The Counselor (DJ set)
When: Tuesday, 09.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Chiba Bar | Colorado Springs
Why: Denver futuristic new age/ambient band Mondo Obscura lands in Colorado Springs for a two hour live set followed by DJ set from local weirdo The Counselor at a Japanese themed bar. Fortunately it won’t be the “Chiba City Blues” but if some guy named Case shows up looking like he might be hyped on stims and babbles something about Molly Millions and the Panther Moderns just be glad for the distraction and ask him how Acacia Park is treating him.

Wednesday | September 5, 2018

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, photo by Warwick Baker

Who: Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever w/Jo Passed
When: Wednesday, 09.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: On the strength of the material on its first two EPs, 2016’s Talk Tight and 2017’s The French Press, Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever drew favorable comparison by critics like Robert Christgau and Stephen Deusner to influential Australian jangle pop band The Go-Betweens. With the sparkling guitar tone and effluvient, often urgent, dynamics the comparison seems apt. But the band never really sounds like a throwback and especially not so on its 2018 full length Hope Downs wherein the guitar play weaves hanging chords into its bright melodies to convey more fully melancholic undertones and introspective moods. Like American indie rock band LVL UP, RBCF has a real knack for writing songs with a depth of composition using dissonance, textural rhythms and percussive melodies alongside more straightforward guitar work. Live the group performs with a nervy energy that gives what might otherwise be simply solid pop songs a palpable intensity.

Who: Weird Wednesday: KRBS (from Ludlow), Bonnie Weimer, Whimsically Macabre Music
When: Wednesday, 09.5, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This latest edition of Weird Wednesday features artists whose music doesn’t necessarily scream out “weird” but in the larger musical sense really is. Bonnie Weimer whose spare, banjo songs are reminiscent of Maureen Tucker solo or on her rare and excellent vocal performances in The Velvet Underground (particularly “After Hours”). Meaning it’s intimate, powerful and a bit mysterious. Presumably KRBS is Josh Kirby from the great Colorado folk/punk band Ludlow doing a solo performance. Kirby has an offbeat, often surreal sense of humor so that’s bound to be part of the set too. Whimsically Macabre Music is a solo piano project of Stacy Fahrion. The music doesn’t hit you over the head with its strangeness. In that sense it has more in common with how many Erik Satie pieces are haunting or various Shirley Jackson novels have an atmosphere just off enough to get under your skin without having to resort to cheap thrills.

Best Shows in Denver 4/19/18 – 4/25/18

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Khruangbin performs Monday, April 23, 2018, at The Bluebird Theater , photo by Mary Kang

 

Thursday | April 19, 2018

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Atari, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents Speakeasy Series Season 2: Atari and Pythian Whispers
When: Thursday, 04.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 will be an early and short show from Denver ambient artists Atari and Pythian Whispers. Being in the latter, no comment. Atari, though, is David Bridges, a DJ who manufactures records to create truly unique beats in an analog format. He uses some electronic components in his beatmaking but its that he has been known to cut records apart and put them together in different arrangements for a show or recording. The result sounds like tape collage, ambient industrial but the craft involved is a step beyond what most musicians making similar music would be willing to undertake.

Who: Glasss Presents: Gold Trash, Church Fire, EVP and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of an all-star experimental electronic pop lineup. Mirror Fears set a high bar for emotional intensity and a complete synthesis of dream pop, industrial and noise with her 2018 album Eaten. Church Fire similarly doesn’t skimp on the emotional singing in its live show and on its albums but its style is more embodied in the band name because Shannon Webber has a fiery performance style that is impossible to ignore. EVP channels a lifetime of anger into its music even though some of it sounds like it could be a companion piece to what Grimes has been up to lately. Gold Trash sounds a bit more raw and chaotic than the other acts on the bill, it’s sound seeming to have been informed by the sonic brutality and, yes, trash culture embrace vibe of both Atari Teenage Riot and Royal Trux.

Friday | April 20, 2018

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Front 242, photo courtesy Front 242

Who: Front 242 w/Blackcell, EVP and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Front 242 was the first band from Belgium most people outside of Belgium had ever heard about. Which is interesting because Front 242 remains a bit of a cult band. But the group pioneered the style of electronic industrial music called Electronic Body Music, or EBM. Developing alongside peers like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, D.A.F. and Front Line Assembly, who were making likeminded music from the early to mid-80s going forward, Front 242 enjoyed a brief period of commercial success by the early 90s. Its single “Rhythm of Time” appeared in the 1992 thriller Single White Female boosting the band’s profile at a time when alternative rock had opened the doors into the mainstream for all sorts of leftfield music that could fit under that umbrella including Front 242.

After 1991’s Tyranny For You, Front 242’s musical style evolved rapidly and dramatically as embodied on a twin 1993 release of both 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09: 12 Off. The big beats that were the driving engine of the band’s earlier music seemed gone but not the robotic, distorted vocals. The tracks seemed less stark and revealed the influence of more sample based composition. Through the rest of the decade and into the 2000s, when Front 242 released music it was obvious the group was learning from the new electronic groups or the era including the IDM, “Big Beat” and house/techno/rave artists that dominated the electronic music world of the 90s and 2000s. Front 242 hasn’t released a new full album worth of material since 2003’s excellent Pulse, its then first album in a decade. But that means that if you’re going to the show you’ll probably get a nice slice of its classic material.

Who: Afroman w/David Frederick, SwizZy B and guests
When: Friday, 04.20, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Since April twentieth in Denver is basically a punchline for a fake holiday there are too many events “celebrating” legal recreational cannabis. Afroman, more than many artists of the past two decades, made more of his 2001, what might be considered a novelty, hit “Because I Got High” than anyone had in years. Since then Afroman has been kind of a mascot for legalization of cannabis so even if this show is basically about that it should be entertaining anyway.

Who: Alphabet Soup #32: MYTHirst feat. Nancy A. Finney, Suffers Beats, DaShwoo, R A R E B Y R D S $, Brother Saturn, Babah Fly, Bentstickremedy
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Deer Pile
Why: The Alphabet Soup series has been a sure fire way to see some of the most forward thinking hip-hop / beat driven electronic music makers in Denver. This edition is no different but included are ambient/dream pop artist Brother Saturn. Otherwise any show with R A R E B Y R D S $ and Babah Fly indicate that someone somewhere in putting together the lineup knows Denver underground hip-hop history while being aware of the most interesting new crews operating.

Who: Zigtebra, Gort Vs. Goom and f-ether
When: Friday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Chicago’s Zigtebra has blended the aesthetics of 8-bit video game music composition, EBM and indie pop. It’s the sophisticated lo-fi musical equivalent of inspired collage art. Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums prog punk band. Probably sounds counterintuitive but this duo makes it work and comes off more like Minutemen than Primus. F-ether’s musical output is fairly diverse. But one might describe the overarching sound as one of minimal synth environments reminiscent of a less abstract Pole or of early IDM artists. Except there’s more modern glitchcore to some of his denser songs. But all within the realm of modern underground dance music.

Who: Coastlands w/Altas and The Leshen
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Coastlands is a Portland, Oregon-based post-rock band. It’s sound is more melancholy and downtempo than its more rock-oriented kin. More Hammock than Explosions in the Sky. Also playing this show is Denver’s Altas. The instrumental rock band is like its own traveling sonic cinema rooted in guitar and synthesizer music. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias was full of songs that suggested short, epic science fiction films in miniature themselves. As in not inspired by film but inspiring them. We’ve heard lots of post-metal/heavy post-rock and The Leshen fits under that umbrella fine. But intentionally or otherwise the duo has brought in elements of industrial and sludgy blues rock without compromising an interesting sound.

Who: Cigarettes After Sex
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Despite a completely underwhelming showing opening for Garbage in the summer of 2016 and a fairly sparse eight years of output prior merely hinting at what was ahead, Cigarettes After Sex released a respectable self-titled full-length in 2017. It can sound of a piece and yet the dusky tone and Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals are engaging and interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Even if the live show hasn’t improved, but chances are it has, being enveloped in the ghostly embrace of this music should reward the effort to show up.

Who: 4/20 Funk Fest: Rowdy Shadehouse w/Log and DJ Lucky Luck
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At least if you come to this show, overtly state them aside, it’ll be enough of a celebration of the bombastic and absurd to be fun. Jon Thursday’s melodramatic, hypersexualized stage persona may split the crowd but at least it won’t be boring or forgettable. His band Rowdy Shadehouse has been through some lineup changes but Thursday is able to bring together some real talents to execute his version of funk.

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Slow Caves and Silver & Gold
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery | Fort Collins
Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her literary and penetratingly insightful pop songs to the Downtown Artery for a show with hometown heroes, the surf-y garage rock band Slow Caves and Greeley’s Silver & Gold, a band that sounds like it worked through its emo, alt-country and neo-classic rock roots to make a the kind of alt/indie rock band with an earnest energy and big hooks.

Saturday | April 21, 2018

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MC Chris, photo by Mara Robinson

Who: MC Chris w/Bitforce and An Hobbs
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: MC Chris and his music has been a part of a certain segment of modern American counterculture through his association with Adult Swim through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2011 and The Brak Show. Among other projects. Though MC Chris is with some people synonymous with nerdcore, his music goes beyond nerd culture and the nerdly events at which he has performed. Yes, there are 8-bit sounds all over his music and references to video games and RPGs but his production and songwriting is much broader and sophisticated than a narrow subgenre straightjacket could fully encompass. In that way his songs have more in common with other hip-hop than nerdcore. MC Chris’s music may be steeped in and a product of nerd culture but not limited by it. His most recent album, 2017’s Marshmellow Campground, is an irreverent collection of songs about the perils and challenges of childhood and its rituals and experiences that many of us share.

Who: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release w/Muscle Beach and Cult of the Lost Cause
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is celebrating the release of its new record, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on Sailor Records. The hard rock duo would probably be considered metal by most people that see them but for the past few years, and probably from the beginning, the band has created some songs that transcend limiting genre labels by taking the harder edged sounds into more atmospheric vistas. When Sugar Skulls & Marigolds opened for Xasthur in 2017, it was supposed to be an “acoustic” show but it just sounded like a great shoegaze or dream pop band with more grit than usual and revealed these guys had more to offer than being just a talented extreme metal band. The new record is finds both creative impulses informing each other for one of the most interesting heavy albums of the last few years. Also, two of the best heavier bands in Denver or anywhere share the bill with the more punk oriented Muscle Beach and the more instrumental metal/posthardcore Cult of the Lost Cause.

Who: The Book of Love w/Eloquent and The Siren Project
When: Saturday, 04.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Book of Love is a band from the 80s and early 90s synth pop world that like groups from that era like Let’s Active and Game Theory who were maybe big on college radio with flirtations with mainstream success, including two tours with Depeche Mode in the mid-80s, but never quite broke through to the audience one might think would be obvious. It wasn’t for lack of quality material and its music was not even as dark as that of Depeche Mode. So The Book of Love became a bit of a cult band in the Goth world of the 90s even after its initial 1994 breakup. Since 2013, The Book of Love has been touring on the strength of its back catalog. Joining The Book of Love for this show is Denver-based Euro-dream-pop-post-punk band The Siren Project, a band that has also yet to garner the attention it richly deserves for its body of work that conjures imagery of hanging out in a fog-enshrouded café in some romantic city on the Continent contemplating the meaning of life and dreams of the future.

Who: Diners, Dingbat Superminx, Petite Garçon, Wrinkle and The Tickles
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery
Why: The term indie pop may have lost some of its meaning or significance since the early 2000s when some of the most inspired and idiosyncratic pop music made was coming out in the underground. Well, these bands all embody that spirit of not looking to the mainstream to define what makes pop music and Wrinkle, even though clearly a punk band, is not short on hooks. Denver’s Petite Garçon is mostly difficult to categorize except that its songcraft is a not so self-conscious to be a deconstruction of pop but a use of that structure employing sounds in a way most bands in the classic mold would not. It’s also a chance to see a show at the excellent Dateline Gallery so it is for sure all ages.

Who: Oddfellas, Drink Drank PUNK, Sliver, The Pollution and Church Van
When: Saturday, 04.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Is this a punk show? Pretty much except that Sliver draws a great deal from DC posthardcore and late 80s and early 90s grunge and northwest punk in general: Nirvana (from whose song the band got its name, natch), Tad and Wipers. And The Pollution includes DC punk band United Mutation’s bass player Jay Fox and thus an unusual and interesting mix of punk, psych and krautrock.

Sunday | April 22, 2018

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Ho99o9, photo by Hadas Di

Who: 3Teeth w/Ho99o9 and Street Sects
When: Sunday, 04.22, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: 3Teeth wears some of its influences on its sleeve pretty heavily: Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson. But it lacks the utter camp of Manson and KMFDM. Just abrasive, crunchy industrial rock guitar and a bit of a throwback to the 90s in that regard yet still not really coming off like a band tapping into nostalgia. Street Sects is almost a performance art band in how confrontational it sounds and the nature of its fog-enshrouded live shows. Like a breakcore band with more identifiable and visceral low end. Ho99o9 is what might be called an industrial hip-hop act. Obvious comparisons have likely been made with Death Grips and Dälek, none of the three groups sound at all like each other except in their use of sounds in a hip-hop context most other hip-hop artists wouldn’t use like industrial beats and darker undertones in the synth lines. Maybe Sole, The GZA, Eyedea & Abilities, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and the like. Wherever Ho99o9 fits in, its menacing and socially critical music has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few years. It’s latest release is 2017’s United States Of Horror, a title that just about sums up the national and international mood of late.

Who: Joe Jack Talcum w/Coolzey, Mister Zach and Daywish
When: Sunday, 04.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Joe Genaro aka Joe Jack Talcum is perhaps most widely known as the guitarist and one of the vocalists in punk rock band Dead Milkmen. But since 1984 he’s written songs and albums and performed live as a solo artist. Not folk, not conventionally singer-songwriter, but more akin to Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg in that he can be political but also write about love and life in a way that goes beyond tropes. And hey, he may do a Dead Milkmen song or two.

Monday | April 23, 2018

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Carpenter Brut, photo courtesy Carpenter Brut

Who: Carpenter Brut w/Jean Jean
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, is a French synth artist who has been on the forefront of making the kind of music that one might have heard in 80s horror and science fiction movies, and thus perhaps an explanation of part of the project’s name by invoking director John Carpenter whose own synth-based soundtracks for his own films are a clear inspiration to Carpenter Brut and his musical peers in Perturbator, Magic Sword and Kavinsky. On the 2015 release Trilogy, the titles suggestive of horror storylines and the strong, bright compositions nail the combination of camp and compelling songwriting. Hueso has done some soundtrack work but the vast body of his songs are separate from that context and those songs suggest narratives and aesthetic that recent films like Drive, The Guest and others have manifested. 2018’s Leather Teeth pushes the absurdity factor further in terms of subject matter (“Inferno Galore” and “Hairspray Hurricane” being clear indicators) but Hueso’s mastery of the musical form has progressed even further and the live show looks like an immersive experience.

Who: Khruangbin w/The Mattson 2 bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/348081
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Khruangbin’s website airkhruang.com offers visitor a playlist for a trip from any place in the world to another which one can also save to Spotify. Asked for various aspects of the trip, the curated selections are uncannily apt. It also more than hints at the band’s cross-cultural appeal. The trio got started when bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer were on tour with Yppah in 2010 during that artist’s run with Bonobo and recognized similar musical interests. After recruiting drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson the group started writing its earliest songs and garnered some attention for its early singles. With what looks and sounds to English-speaking eyes and ears as an exotic name the expectation for the project might have been some resurrection of non-Western versions of Western pop. Instead, Khruangbin’s sound is that of downtempo jazz, surf-rock-esque-yet-smooth-and-moody guitar and smoky funk. Currently touring in the wake of the release of its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin has brought along like minded, San Diego-based duo, Mattson 2, a band comprised of identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. The brothers released a collaborative album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi fame in 2017 and in March 2018, an album of covers of Japanese jazz originals called Vaults of Eternity: Japan.

Who: Impiety, Gravehill and Divine Eye
When: Monday, 04.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Impiety started in 1990 as a kind of black metal band. But in Singapore being in such a band was probably a dicey proposition and remains so in a country that banned “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963 and the 2001 Janet Jackson album All for You due to its racy album cover and lyrics. Nevertheless, Impiety and other extreme metal bands have operated out of Singapore for years. Since its earliest releases, Impiety has evolved a bit from its early black metal roots to its current deathgrind style. But its musical vision of audio-violence and lyrics that combine an irreverent attitude toward organized religion with cartoonishly occult imagery will ensure Impiety will alienate casual metal fans. Gravehill from Anaheim, California and its 2018 album The Unchaste, The Profane & The Wicked is a bit of a throwback to a time when thrash and death metal weren’t so far apart in sound and the brutal imagery of the lyrics.

Tuesday | April 24, 2018

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Das Mortal, photo by Christine McAvoy

Who: Das Mörtal w/Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 04.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Das Mörtal often gets lumped in with the modern synthwave movement and not without reason. His sensibilities as a songwriter are, according to a July 2017 interview with Get Some Magazine, inspired in part by 80s movie soundtracks as well as 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. But this project sounds less like other synthwave stars like Carpenter Brut, Com Truise, Kavinsky and Perturbator and more like a pop-oriented rock band like Cut Copy whose New Order and OMD influences showed pretty strongly on its 2004 album Bright Like Neon Love. And like Cut Copy, Das Mörtal has evolved into his own sound as evidenced by his 2017 album Always Loved. With nods to mid-90s IDM and mid-80s EBM, Always Loved is packed with songs that pick up where nostalgia isn’t enough of an appeal with an updated take on electronic dance music grounded in songwriting rather than merely well-crafted beats.

Wednesday | April 25, 2018

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King Krule

Who: King Krule w/Standing On the Corner
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: In a time when genre bending and multi-genre artists are becoming more common, King Krule is a standout. Like Deerhunter more than a decade ago, King Krule’s music invites you into a universe of its own as it is not simply rock or a subgenre of electronic pop music or hip-hop. It has elements of all of that and more but is not limited by a need to fit in with something other than Archy Marshall’s expansive imagination. 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon probably got interpreted as being part of the psych-and-punk-garage revival of the time. But Marshall sounded like he was channeling Old Dirty Bastard singing for a weirdo jazz band making its own version of indie rock. Four years later, The Ooz finds the band weaving in more musical DNA to mutate its sound further. Bossa nova and dub underpin the “Dum Surfer” single and the beatmaking compositional element is stronger across the whole album, giving it a soft and hypnotic quality even in its moments of peak emotional intensity.

 

Who: Whores, Bummer, Bland Canyon
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Whores is a sludgy noise rock trio from Atlanta. Reminiscent of Big Business, KARP (naturally) and a less sonically surreal Jesus Lizard, Whores perform with the edgy energy of a posthardcore band rather than with the quickened tar pace of many bands projecting a similar aesthetic. Not as overtly so, Whores shares KARP’s proclivity for humor and irony. After all, on its latest album, 2016’s Gold. there are song titles like “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” and “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual.” Bummer is a sludge rock band from Kansas City that sounds like what would have happened had Ministry followed a trajectory suggested by the Filth Pig album. Bland Canyon from Denver comes right out of the local post-hardcore scene with former Mustangs and Madras members Nick Krier and Tom Chagolla as well as Matty Clark from Trees. Danny Aranow from Sugar Skulls & Marigolds and Justin Hackl who has played in several local bands including in Native Daughters with Chagolla. It’ll be heavy but also oddly catchy.

Who: Dreamdecay, Product Lust, Weaken, Old Sport
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Dreamdecay is a noise post-punk band from Seattle. Its urgent, thorny songs don’t fit in with the hardcore scene one might expect the band to come from though it probably plays a number of those kinds of shows. Its grittily atmospheres and meditation on the quandaries of existence in a pre-apocalyptic society should appeal to fans of Silver Daggers, Live Skull and Arab on Radar. Its 2017 album isn’t all the same tempo, tone or texture throughout making it rewarding repeat listening experience. All the bands on this bill have their roots in punk but did us the favor of exploring sounds, rhythms and styles beyond the outworn fashion of punk circa any “classic” year of the past.

Who: Big K.R.I.T. W/Cyhi the Prynce, Childish Major
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Justin Scott a.k.a. Big K.R.I.T. has always used interesting beats to go along with his words and he has aimed at making poignant observations about life that transcend the specific context and situations he references. And he’s mostly made good on that ambition. For his 2017 album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Scott delivered twenty songs divided into two sides of the record, the Big K.R.I.T. side and the Justin Scott side, with each embodying a side of Scott’s songwriting identity. The title is a clear nod to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Though that song is a celebratory party song it is also a fascinatingly thoughtful and insightful exploration of what one must do to propel yourself out of life’s lowest moments. It is that spirit that flows through Scott’s record as well with an eclectic array of music to set the mood for both the party and contemplation of the meaning of it all.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.