Best Shows in Denver and Beyond January 2023

SUNN O))) Shoshin Duo performs at The Gothic Theatre on January 31, 2023
Shadows Tranquil in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Autumn Creatures w/Cherished, Bloodsports and Shadows Tranquil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Autumn Creatures is a band from Colorado Springs whose music bridges the worlds of ambient, post-rock, orchestral post-metal, dream pop and outright shoegaze. So on a solid bill with Denver’s Cherished which has emerged from its early incarnation as more a post-punk and death rock band into the realm of shoegaze but with tweaking the edges of the aesthetic with unconventional vocal tones and rhythms that shift easily from drifty to direct. Bloodsports also from Denver is hitting the sweet spot of slowcore and shoegaze with introspective vocals and flares of noise to give what might be a more amorphous aesthetic some dramatic definition. Shadows Tranquil also doesn’t trade in subgenre adherence by thoroughly fusing chilly shoegaze with a touch of emocore and mathrock but all aimed at expressing direct emotional resonances with a maximalist sonic approach with an impressive level of musical detail and dynamic nuance.

Verhoffst in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Noise Brap: Barbie Bloodbath, Muttering, Verhoffst, Kneiffii, Sheet Metal Skingraft, Wontanii, Ghost Thief, Wolf Larva, Avarice and Mumble w/DJs Ursa, B2B and Combat Sport
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: The concept of the brap was coined by Skinny Puppy and was even the title of the 1996 edition of its Back and Forth Series (3 & 4 for that iteration) which collected early instrumental demos and live recordings from earlier in the decade of collaborative electronic improvisations. And for this show the various artists in the local noise/electronic industrial/glitch scene will be teamed up with another for sessions throughout the evening and into the night.

Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Summit Quartet & SeFa LoCo
When: 7-9
Where: Mercury Café (Jungle Room)
Why: This is an evening of live improvised music featuring Right Brains Records artists Summit Quartet which includes Swedish pianist Walter Thompson and long time Denver-based avant-garde saxophonist and educator Mark Harris who has performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Roger Waters and Cab Calloway and locally known for his time in art rock projects Thinking Plague and Hamster Theater. Also on the bill is SeFaLoCo which includes not only Matt Smiley and Ron Coulter from Summit Quartet but long time local masters of improvised music Farrell Lowe and Bret Sexton.

Open Mike Eagle, photo from Bandcamp

Sunday and Monday| 01.08 and 01.09
What: Open Mike Eagle w/Video Dave and DVNEHPPY (w/Azon Classic) (on 01.08) and w/S.iah (on 01.09)
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge (01.08) and The Coast (01.09)
Why: Open Mike Eagle has been created “art rap” for more than two decades and has long been a star in the modern alternative rap world. His new album A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse (2022) is a fine dose of his always creative and imaginative lyricism casting every day situations in surreal terms that reveal insights what might otherwise be mundane and everyday situations. The album includes contributions from Armand Hammer, Aesop Rock and opening artist Video Dave. His beats go beyond mere choice sample processing and have a cinematic and literary quality in their own right creating a layered listening experience.

Skyfloor in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.12
What: Alphabet Soup #56: Funk Hunk, Savage Bass Goat, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes, Skyfloor
When: 9
Where: The Black Box
Why: Alphabet Soup returned in 2022 for every second Thursday of the month at The Black Box to bring you a bevy of local, eclectic and forward thinking dance and techno not getting showcased much at any other event or venue plus there’s no cover.

R A R E B Y R D $ in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.13
What: R A R E B Y R D $
When: 6-10
Where: Rainbow Dome
Why: Rainbow Dome is a project rooted in visual art and community building and this Capricorn Season-themed event involves roller skating, a dance party and a performance from hip-hop trio R A R E B Y R D $ whose music is brash, tender, emotionally rich and deep and incorporates a diverse sound that is an amalgamation of electro soul, ambient, R&B, alternative hip-hop and techno. If one were to count the top live music acts in Denver at the moment these people would have to be included.

Friday | 01.13
What: Modular Synth Night: Enemy Sender, ALX-106, Love Cosmic Love, Sine Mountain and Kent_ucky
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: As the name of the event suggests this is a showcase for some of the local modular synth artists. Normally a show like this happens at a place like Black Box or maybe Fort Greene or with the artists separately at other spaces open to pure electronic music and the more avant electronic dance and techno music but that it’s happening at a venue like Hi-Dive is a testament to what those in the know already knew and that’s that there has been an blossoming interest in synthesizer music beyond the confines of EDM and electronic dance music for many years and maybe a sign of more events like this to come outside the usual venues.

Church Fire in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.14

What: Coastless Creatives Presents Void: Feat. Closegood, Cole3K, Church Fire and Polly Urethane
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Closegood is an experimental R&B duo originally based out of Los Angeles and may still be. Its 2021 album THOTFORM was a colorful set of music that sounded like a bit like R&B, glitch, hyper pop and something that one might expect on the Orange Milk label. Cole3K is similarly-minded in sound with a more hip-hop infused cadence but with production that sounds like the rapid fire shifting pulse of modern life. Church Fire is a hyper political electronic dance industrial trio from Denver but lately it has been incorporating production ideas from the realms of glitch and hyperpop in finding ways to express the reconciliation of self with a fragmented and fragmenting world in a time of great change and crisis where world governments, especially great powers, focus on pointless conflict and a charade of identity politics while the world burns and no one holding the reigns of economic and political power is taking a leadership position to address our collective challenges with the environment, authoritarian politics, economic inequality connected by the domination of global oligarchy. Church Fire’s music is in opposition to that and creating an oasis of joy and solidarity while performing it. Polly Urethane is an evolving visionary artist who seems comfortably situated in creating works that cross the boundaries of classical music, opera, noise, industrial, performance art, dream pop and post-punk. Her shows are an exercise in fearless confrontational challenge of the artist and audience dynamic.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 01.17
What: Alice Does Computer Music, Certain Lives, Polly Urethane and Lanx Borealis
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Alice Does Computer Music is a New York City-based synth pop/hyperpop artist who incorporates cello into her immersive and playful soundscapes. Fans of Mitski may appreciate this artist’s particular brand of pop composition. Lanx Borealis is a Denver-based, dark ambient electronic artist whose work is in the realm of the sort of thing you might expect to hear on the long running Hearts of Space program on public radio. You never really know what kind of set you’re going to get from Polly Urethane and this might be a repeat of her show the previous Saturday or something more improvised or something new but always imaginative and powerful.

Blondshell in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 01.18
What: Suki Waterhouse w/Blondshell
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Blondshell is the stage name of Sabrina Teitelbaum, a songwriter based out of Los Angeles whose singles have been making the rounds since 2022 when she started touring a bit as well on a national level. Her surprisingly fiery rock songs with lush pop hooks and commanding vocals as heard most recently with the December release of her “Veronica Mars” single are appealing enough but live Teitelbaum is a bit of a mysterious creature whose nearly acrobatic stage poses executed with an unaffected calm adds another dimension of performance style one doesn’t often see at a show like she’s incorporating yoga practice into the performance while keeping it theatrical and emotive. Suki Waterhouse is perhaps best known for her acting and modeling career having appeared in the films The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and Ana Lily Amirpour’s gritty horror thriller The Bad Batch (2016) to name but two. In 2022 Waterhouse released her debut album I Can’t Let Go through Sub Pop as well as an EP called Milk Teeth after periodically releasing a single starting with 2016’s “Brutally.” Waterhouse’s hushed vocals and introspective, spacious, cinematic songs offer some insightful and nuanced perspectives on modern relationships.

The Mañanas in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.20
What: The Velveteers w/The Mañanas and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers return from a year of playing big out of town shows with their scorching yet joyful brand of blues rock and psychedelia with two performances and this night the Denver show with two of Denver’s finest. The spirited garage rock/power pop group The Mañanas and their breezy rhythms and sound like something that might have happened had indiepop bands taken even more of a cue from tropicalía. Pink Lady Monster seemed to emerge onto the Denver scene fully formed with an aesthetic that perfectly amalgamates dream pop, psychedelic rock and downtempo in a way reminiscent of both Broadcast and Blonde Redhead.

Friday | 01.20
What: Kool Keith w/Stay Tuned and DJ boyhollow
When: 7
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Kool Keith is the eccentric and influential rapper whose music with Ultramagnetic MCs and Dr. Octagon alone earn him an important place in the history of hip-hop. His surreal wordplay, profane humor and chameleonic style coupled with numerous alter egos have exerted a clear influence on hip-hop since the 1980s as a creative figure with a singular and evolving vision. Opening is the great, Denver-based crew Stay Tuned whose own style of hip-hop with two MCs is not short on imaginative culture and media commentary set to supremely creative beats in the vein of the likes of Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest. DJ-ing the show is legendary track selector boyhollow whose long running alternative music dance night Lipgloss recently went from a weekly to a monthly event.

The Velveteers in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: The Velveteers w/Shady Oaks and The Nova Kicks
When: 8
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: This night The Velveteers play a hometown show with Americana inflected blues and garage rock band Shady Oaks and Denver indie rock band The Nova Kicks.

Instant Empire in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: Instant Empire w/A Mouthful of Thunder and A Place for Owls
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Since 2011 Instant Empire has been threading together classic New Wave sensibilities with introspective and hazy melodies. A Mouthful of Thunder is the latest band from Stephen Till formerly of Hearts of Palm and Black Black Ocean. Who? At any rate, Till’s sensitive lyrics and knack for dynamic melodies and inventive hooks are present here too as evidenced by its 2020 album Careful Now. A Place For Owls released its excellent self-titled debut full length in 2022 and sure it can be lumped under the clumsy umbrella genre designation of indie rock. But there is a level of orchestral composition that brings to the music a full and rich sound that complements well its yearning and existentially explorational lyrics.

Saturday | 01.21
What: Lykotonon w/Ritual Aesthetic, Noctambulist, Morningstar Delirium and DJ Swarth
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lykotonon includes members of Wayfarer, Stormkeep and Blood Incantation and its music might be described loosely as experimental black metal in that it’s more in the realm of Wolves in the Throne Room than Darkthrone and underpinned with spooky electronics that give the music an otherworldly feel. The group recently released its new album Promethean Pathology (2022) and this might be seen as something like an album release show since the record dropped on November 25. Also on the bill are like-minded denizens of the more interesting end of local extreme metal.

Grief Ritual in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 01.22
What: Velnias w/Ghosts of Glaciers and Grief Ritual
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Velnias is tricky to pin down in clear terms because its music isn’t just doom or progressive psychedelic black metal. But its appealingly forbidding yet melodic and epic songs have found an audience well beyond its unlikely hometown of Nederland, Colorado where it’s not just banjos and jam bands. Ghosts of Glaciers will be a good complement to the bill with its own progressive, doomy post-metal and Grief Ritual’s cutting, hardcore-influenced is a relentless assault on authoritarian nihilism.

Nightshark in 2006, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.26
What: Nightshark w/Quits, Tripp Nasty, Sense From Nonsense
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Free jazz/noise rock avant-garde legends Nightshark is playing its first show in over a decade and its first with saxophonist Becca Mhalek in more than fifteen years. The trio of Mhalek, Mike Buckley and Andrew Lindstrom were staples of the Denver underground scene in the 2000s playing small clubs, drive bars and DIY spaces regularly with its mind-altering musicianship and wild energy. Later incarnations of the group included the likes of Neil Keener of Wovenhand fame and Brittany Gould who some may know for her transcendent ambient folk project Married in Berdichev. But the classic trio was the longest lasting and the lineup for this reunion. Sharing the stage will be some other luminaries of the 2000s and 2010s Denver DIY world with composer and modular synth artist Tripp Nasty who has recently launched a new lathe cut label called From the Desk of the Sick Librarian which released the new Sense From Nonsense record. The latter is the solo micro soundtrack and synth and film project of Tom Nelsen who many may know from his tenure in both mutant garage rock band Vicious Women and industrial post-punk phenoms Echo Beds. Quits will also bring its noise rock madness and eruptive energy to the show with former members of White Dynamite, Sparkles, Hot White and Felt Pilotes. All killer.

Pink Lady Monster in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Church Fire, Velvet Horns and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Church Fire will grace the west side with its politically charged industrial dance party and raw emotional power. Velvet Horns is supposedly a pop punk band in the queercore vein and that’s true enough in essence but there’s nothing corny about its intensity and storytelling, like they aimed right for the vulnerable emotions that is part of the best of pop punk. Pink Lady Monster’s art pop psychedelia always seems to have a paradoxical mysterious immediacy with songs that defy easy genre tagging as its songs aren’t readily comparable to any obvious influences.

Circuit des Yeux in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Circuit des Yeux and Bleak Mystique
When: 7
Where: The Coast
Why: Experimental indie folk artist Haley Fohr has been releasing fascinating records as Circuit des Yeux since at least 2010. Her spectral, almost classical compositions and otherworldly and dramatic vocals seem like something that one might expect from another era or parallel universe in which Alice Coltrane is a figure in her more New Age period was cited as an influence alongside Magma as much as any classic rock or folk artist. Her 2021 album -io is like a long lost Nico record with shades of Julia Holter and Laurel Halo but of course Fohr’s unique and always boundary pushing style.

Haunt Me in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Julian St. Nightmare
When: 9
Where: The Crypt
Why: Haunt Me is a darkwave post-punk band from Austin, Texas that often performs in a nearly choking cloak of fog so that its echoing melodies seem to indeed come through to you in a disembodied manner grounded by hypnotic beats. This swing through Colorado includes two dates, this one at The Crypt with the confrontational and fun occult darkwave dance style of the inimitable Hex Cassette who always breaks the barrier between audience cajoling performer and manic dancer in the audience. Julian St. Nightmare’s songwriting as a post-punk band is consistently pushing the barriers of the musical style with not only superior musicianship and diverse songwriting but great style and stage presence.

Sunnnner in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.28
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Sunnnner
When: 8
Where: Trident Booksellers & Cafe
Why: This second Haunt Me show this time in Boulder out back of the Trident book store on the west end of Pearl Street Mall not only includes Hex Cassette but Denver trio Sunnnner whose weirdo post-punk and noise rock is so idiosyncratic in its presentation it is psychedelic rock by default. Meaning the group is much more exciting and interesting than any possible hints of roots in garage rock might be there.

Why Bonnie, photo by Grace Pendelton

Saturday | 01.28
What: Why Bonnie, Sun June and Porlolo
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Why Bonnie began as a songwriting outlet for singer/guitarist Blair Howerton but by the time of its 2018 debut EP In Water the project had developed into a full band. Howerton’s vivid lyrics and command of loud and quiet dynamics and crafting of warm, evocative melodies has yielded a richly diverse body of work that has been described as shoegaze Americana but the band’s music has more in common with the likes of Rilo Kiley, Soccer Mommy and Julien Baker than Mojave 3. The group’s 2022 album 90 in November is a collection of stories of unromanticized nostalgia. That approach lends the songs an unusual and fascinating aspect of being able to appreciate one’s past as it is and not to over or undervalue how you’ve grown as a person and the ongoing process of personal development. Veteran pop Americana legends Porlolo from Denver opens the show with Erin Roberts’ own insightful takes on personal folly and a life lived without fitting neatly under a subcultural umbrella.

Kali Malone in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 01.31
What: SunnO))) w/Kali Malone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In its SHOSHIN (初心) Duo configuration SunnO))) returns to its core, original live form with founders and guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson performing its signature heavy volume ritualistic drones dealing in what they refer to as “profound valve amplification, spectral harmonics, distortion and volume.” From the beginning the duo has crafted primal waves of sound that serve as some of the heaviest ambient music rooted in an abstract rock instrument foundation, warping and mutating both aesthetics in an alchemical synthesis that is transcendent and glacially crushing. Don’t go expecting a doom band, sure it’s not quite the same without long time collaborator, the singular vocalist Attila Csihar, but all configurations of SunnO))) offer a mind-altering live experience unlike any other band in the world of heavy music or really any other. Opening the proceedings is Kali Malone. The composer grew up in Colorado and moved to Stockholm, Sweden in her late teens and has become internationally renowned for her avant-garde works of drone and modern classical music. Anyone that saw Malone performing at house shows and DIY spaces in Colorado got to see an early form of Malone’s gift for meditative, minimalist soundscapes but her 2019 album The Sacrificial Code brought her to wider international audiences. Her new album, the gorgeously layered and transportingly murky Does Spring Hide Its Joy (January 2023) includes contributions from SunnO)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton released on O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint on 3 LPs and 3 CDs.

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

JudasPriest_OliverHalfin
Judas Priest performs at Broadmoor World Arena on June 5

Friday | May 31

BigFreedia_Oct25_2011_TomMurphy
Big Freedia circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Saturday | June 1

Dead_Milkmen_by_Jessica_Kourkounis_2014_1
Dead Milkmen, photo by Jessica Kourkounis, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | June 2

UniversalDevils_Dec3_2016_TomMurphy_web
Universal Devils, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Monday | June 3

KEN_mode_BrennaFaris
KEN mode, photo by Brenna Faris

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

Tuesday | June 4

SlimCessnasAutoClub_Dec29_2017_TomMurphy
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Wednesday | June 5

SnailsAndOysters_Jul1_2015_TomMurphy
Snails and Oysters circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Best Shows in the Denver Area 3/21/19 – 3/27/19

RAREBYRDS_Feb26_2019_TomMurphy
R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | March 21

What: Throwing Thimgs, Bert Olsen (tour kickoff), Sad Dance Party and Zealot
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Bert Olsen is taking its post-punk/death rock pop songs beyond Denver for a tour and kicking it off with this show alongside other musical misfits like Zealot, a pop band that is deep under the influence of The Mountain Goats—texture rich melodies, irrepressibly upbeat and crackling with wiry energy.

Rubblebucket_RobAbelow1
Rubblebucket, photo by Rob Abelow

What: Rubblebucket w/Twain and Toth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Rubblebucket reached deep into its members hearts in search of the material for Sun Machine, which discusses the struggles of life, death, heartbreak, despair, a yearning for rebirth into a next, better chapter of life while sitting in the depths of one’s psyche. The live presentation of this material, alongside the group’s fine earlier work, is done with an exuberant sense of theater.

What: Equine Tour Kickoff w/Death In Space, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Radiant Filth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Equine will be taking his abstract guitar compositions on the road for a series of shows out to the east coast. Calling it ambient or “prepared guitar” isn’t quite accurate as Kevin Richards brings to bear a technical knowledge of tone and chord structure applied to his imaginative ear for an interesting and compelling arrangement. To launch him on his way are local peers in the like-minded Death In Space whose own guitar and loop experiments will be on full display as well as J. Hamilton Isaacs and his way of making analog synths make playful and bright dance beats and melodies.

What: Bright Light Social Hour w/Rubedo and Other Worlds
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Austin’s Bright Light Social Hour will treat you to an uplifting blend of ethereal tones and motorik beats. If psychedelic rock went a little bit synth pop and the emphasis was on soothing vibes rather than simply pursuing wild sonic gyrations, it might sound like what Bright Light Social Hour has perfected. Denver’s Rubedo is one of the opening acts. The trio has evolved its sound, aesthetic and conceptual thrust over the years. But lately it’s been a nice balance of heartfelt, soulful vocals and blues-inflected art work with intricate yet intuitive changes throughout its songs. It’s a band whose themes are essentially uplifting and on accentuating the positive but never with a heavy-handed and corny take.

Friday | March 22

MarchFourth_AndrewWyatt
Marchfourth, photo by Andrew Wyatt

What: MarchFourth w/Southern Avenue
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: MarchFourth predates by several years but is otherwise spiritual kin to Denver’s Itchy-O. Both used to have “Marching Band” as part of their name due to the robust horn and percussion sections of both bands. But wheres Itchy-O embodies a more experimental, darker, post-apocalyptic ritualistic side of the music, MarchFourth plays an eclectic kind of instrumental funk. Both are an eye-catching spectacle the likes of which you’re not likely to quite see with a more conventional band format. At a MarchFourth show you’ll also see acrobats, dancers and stiltwalkers with members dressed in a dazzling array of color and personalized detail.

What: Rubie Gold, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS and Talk Perfect
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: nIGHtIMEsCHOOLbUS is the downtempo hip-hop collaboration between Otem Rellik’s Toby Hendricks and Robin Walker of Shocker Mom. Emotionally tender, borderline ambient beats and warm vibes.

Saturday | March 23

RachaelPollardBonnieWeimerJohnnySherry
Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

What: Spine, Raw Breed, Cadaver Dog, Videodrome and Mob
When: Saturday, 03.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Aggressive hardcore night at 7C with some of Denver’s best as well as Spine from Kansas City/Chicago. If those guys drive to practice that truly is hardcore.

What: R A R E B Y R D $ tape release w/Bulldozer Boy
When: Saturday, 03.23, 9:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: R A R E B Y R D $ is releasing its debut tape MIXTO$ at this show as well as other merch. The album was released digitally in 2018 under a slightly different name on Glasss Records but underwent a remixing via Tyler Breuer whose work as a musician and producer in various bands in Denver brought a different sensibility and ear to the proceedings. The experimental hip-hop trio will celebrate the occasion with a show including downtempo-jazz beatmaker Bulldozer Boy.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll: Night 4: Sweetness Itself, Rachael Pollard and Death In Space
When: Saturday, 03.23, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Get Your Ears Swoll is a monthly music event at The People’s Building in Aurora. Rachael Pollard has been playing her fragile, playful, thoughtful, introspective songs in and around Denver for twenty years or more. The music feels like you’re getting glimpses into a private universe of talking animals, rainbow bridges to other dimensions and some of the most confessional poems written by anyone. Her shows invite you to connect with the better part of your own psyche. Death In Space could be anything at this point since Aleeya Wilson has integrated synths and guitar with loops. Only expect something interesting and sonically spare but not simplistic.

Sunday | March 24

LizPhairCrop
Liz Phair, photo courtesy the artist

What: Liz Phair w/Califone
When: Sunday, 03.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Had Liz Phair only released her 1993 album Exile in Guyville, her place in music history would have been set. The album was a deep, sophisticated, at times profane, feminist exploration of the dynamic in far too many music and creative scenes then and now in which men dominate and sideline women (or anyone that can be sidelined for reasons of identity) in subtle and not subtle ways. Her stories are so vivid and capture a truth so poignant they sound personal but they were not, Phair was just particular adroit in her portraits verbally and emotionally. Since then Phair has written straight ahead pop songs, fuzzy alternative rock, soundtracks and done sound design work so that her more recent albums seem like experiments integrating her career as a musician. Live she’s not the type to refuse to play her classic, beloved material and her sense of humor and sensitivity makes for a captivating time.

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Sunday, 03.24, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Carla Bley was a major figure in 60s free jazz and her 1971 album with Paul Haines (father of Emily Haines of Metric), Escalator Over The Hill. Called a “jazz opera,” Escalator combined avant-garde jazz and folk and one has to assume it exerted influence on the spontaneous compositions of French prog band Magma. While Bley has played in various configurations large and small this Denver show, her first in around thirty years, will be a trio performance with Andy Sheppard on saxophone and Steve Swallow on bass.

Monday | March 25

Paperbark_Nov22_2017_TomMurphy_web
Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Monday, 03.25, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: For Carla Bley see above.

What: Centered Volume 5: Paperbark, Entrancer, Street Soul Nekyia and Pameshen
When: Monday, 03.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jacob Isaacs has been putting together some of the greatest, underground showcases for artists of synthesizer music in the Denver area with his Centered series. This edition includes modular synth artist Paperbark. John Mulville lived in Denver for a handful of years where he became entrenched in the avant-garde and ambient scene with his atmospheric work that projected a tactile sensibility like sculpture done with sound. Entrancer’s own modular synth work has absorbed the influences of old school avant-garde electronic music as well as techno. Both Paperbark and Entrancer also draw inspiration from the production side of hip-hop and while it may not be so obvious in their work with more adventurous hip-hop artists embracing noise and experimental music of late the connection seems obvious especially when the waves of this music hits you in the live setting where its visceral impact is undeniable.

Wednesday | March 27

Jerry-Paper-by-Monika-Mogi-03
Jerry Paper, photo by Monika Mogi

What: Jerry Paper w/Ava Luna and Ashley Koett
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lucas Nathan was involved in making noise and psychedelic music before he finally decided to start making electronic music to disabuse himself of his prejudices against it. Because of that his music has a truly unusual and original take on what is essentially sample-based composition and retro-futurist weirdo hip-hop.

What: Palehorse/Palerider, Nox Novacula, No Gossip In Braille, Voight
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Post-metal, post-deathrock, post-punk, post-shoegaze. The kind of bill that should happen all the time but rarely does when artists so unlike each other (beyond all being some kind of rock) have sounds that compliment each other well.

What: Deafheaven, Baroness and Zeal & Ardor
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Baroness is on the verge of releasing its latest double album Gold & Grey. The band that has distinguished itself in the realm of sludge metal with intricate and imaginative guitar work and solid vocal harmonies has said that the new record will be the last in its series of color-themed titles. Seeing as guitarist and singer John Baizley is one of the most distinguished and sought-after visual artists in metal and music generally, it’ll be interesting to see what themes emerge from here. Until then you will likely be able to hear a good deal of the new material on this tour with blackened shoegaze band Deafheaven and experimental black metal outfit Zeal & Ardor.

eugenechadbourne (1)
Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artist

What: Eugene Chadbourne / Ryan Seward, Bret Sexton / Farrell Lowe
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Eugene Chadborne has been one of the important figures of avant-garde/free jazz for over four decades. Born in Mount Vernon, New York (just north of NYC), Chadbourne grew up in Boulder, Colorado before leaving for Canada to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War. Can hardly blame him. When he came back to America, he moved to NYC where he worked with Henry Kaiser and John Zorn and was encouraged by Anthony Braxton to keep with playing music rather than enter into a career as a journalist. Chadbourne’s prolific output, not fully documented on his Wikipedia page of course, has encompassed a broad range of musical styles and ideas. He has collaborated with Fred Frith, Sun City Girls, Camper Van Beethoven and Charles Tyler (who worked with Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman). For this performance, Chadbourne will perform with Colorado based improvisational/spontaneous composition artist Ryan Seward with a performance from other Denver area heavy hitters in the local avant-garde scene, who frequently perform with Seward, Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe. Chadborne will also play a fundraiser for the nonprofit Creative Music Works on Thursday and we’ll provide the information on that event in our next show listing.

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

Equine_Nov22_2017_TomMurphy
Kevin Richards of Equine circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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