What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
What:The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.
What:Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.
What:Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.
What:Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.
What:The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.
What:Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.
What:Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.
What:TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1 When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.
What:Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m. Where: Glitter City Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.
What:Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.
Monday | November 4
What:GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
Tuesday | November 5
What:HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.
What:Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.
What:Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.
What:Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.
What:Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m. Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.
What:Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.
What:Turvy Organ album release w/Panther Martin, Sour Boy Bitter Girl When: Thursday, 06.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:The Ghost at the Feast is Denver indie rock band Turvy Organ’s new record. What has always set the group apart from the oft-necessary but lazy “indie rock” overarching term is that it most certainly is not operating to jump on some trendy sound or bandwagon. Yes, you’ll hear the echoes of Modest Mouse in some of Ilya Litoshik’s vocals but from there the dynamics of the music and the songwriting is too idiosyncratic to fit into the mold of anyone else. The new album has what sounds like a story arch trying to make sense of a deep yearning for place and identity and coming to accept things as they are. Very Zen. But that journey is one worth taking with the band. There isn’t a single sonic flavor Turvy Organ employs across the album except for maybe some tasty, energetic melodic bass lines. That may even be how the record ties together outside of Litoshik’s highly charged and wide-ranging vocals. Splicing together post-punk moodiness and wiry energy with the frayed musical and emotional edges of 90s lo-fi rock, Turvy Organ has not just come to terms with what it’s about as a band The Ghost at the Feast but with what it’s like to be an underground rock band at this juncture in our culture where if you’re not doing it for the right reasons you’ll undermine your goals by not seeming honest.
What:TOKiMONSTA w/Holly and Blackbird Blackbird When: Thursday, 06.13, 9 p.m. Where: Club Vinyl Why: TOKiMONSTA garnered a name for herself for crafting imaginative and lush downtempo beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the body of work of some of the more melancholy artists on the Warp and Stones Throw roster. She has a real gift for expansive, complimentary synth lines and multiple layers of percussion to accent the tempo of her songs. As a DJ TOKiMONSTA mixes in plenty of material from across a broad spectrum of modern electronic music.
Friday | June 14
What:Electric Funeral Fest Night 1 When: Friday, 06.14, 3 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive/3 Kings Why: This is the fourth edition of Electric Funeral Fest which features some of the most interesting acts in underground “extreme” and experimental metal. Tonight’s programme is as follows:
What:Anderson .Paak w/Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat When: Friday, 06.14, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Three of the most creatively brilliant artists of modern hip-hop on one bill anywhere would be noteworthy, at Red Rocks it would be deserving of the word epic.
What:Sympathy F When: Friday, 06.14, 9 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Formed in 1991, Sympathy F is one of the few, if not only, still active bands from Denver’s alternative rock era whose melancholic, jazz-inflected, dream pop reflects an era in Denver where the city felt dark, neglected and wide open. When creative weirdos could rent a warehouse on the relatively cheap and hang out with each other and converse and mutually inspire and otherwise have their own subculture that was vibrant and not well known by the world outside the Mile High City. When downtown had viaducts (Fifteenth and Twentieth Streets) that went from downtown proper to a now long gone warehouse district, where the old Montgomery Wards build stood west of downtown like the abandoned monolithic structure from a bygone era. That the band’s songs are emotionally powerful and moving and intense yet luminous doesn’t hurt because it has been written from a place of nostalgia, but at its heart is a shard of that unique time and place in Denver’s history and it shines forth from the band’s entrancing performances.
What:Daikaiju When: Friday, 06.14, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: Writing about Daikaiju seems folly at this moment so here’s a video that gets at some of the chaotic glory of the weirdo surf band from Alabama.
What:Lazarus Horse, Mt. Illimani, Enji and Sam Morris When: Friday, 06.14, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Maybe Eddie Durkin shoulda zigged when he shoulda zagged here and there in life. But haven’t we all? His old band Sparkler Bombs was pushing punk and noise rock and modern proto-psychedelia in interesting directions. But nearly a decade hence, Durkin has been writing songs under various project names including Lazarus Horse. Imagine if someone somehow bought Rainwater Cassette Exchange, The Glow Pt. 2 and a few Julianna Barwick and Grouper records pluse The Velvet Underground & Nico and got sent off with their parents to scientific station duty at Edinburgh of the Seven Seas with spotty internet but a good instruments and pedals and some recording equipment. That’s basically what Lazarus Horse sounds like—drawing on the weirdo rock familiar while sounding ineffably different from even that.
Saturday | June 15
What:Tacocat and The Paranoyds w/Princess Dewclaw When: Saturday, 06.15, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Seattle’s Tacocat and L.A.’s The Paranoyds are making thought-provoking and emotionally nuanced fuzzy post-surf-punk pop with a refreshing level of depth and spirited energy. Although Tacocat has been associated with the sort of surf punk thing the past decade it’s always been different from all of that because its songwriting has been brimming with irreverent humor, playfulness and a surreal and colorful aesthetic. The cover of its new album This Mess is a Place is striking when you see it at the record store and draws you in with its inviting, retrofuturistic collage style promising something within that will offer interesting stories and perspectives that aren’t trend hopping or trite blandishments about love or needing to always center all content on what’s topical. In that way Tacocat offer a view of a more interesting and vital future for all of us. Paranoyds can be reminiscent of The Raincoats if that band came from southern California instead of London with the wonderful, unconventional choruses and noisy guitar. Watch out for the group’s new 7-inch “Hungry Sam”/”Trade Our Sins” out on Suicide Squeeze July 12.
What:Electric Funeral Fest IV When: Saturday, 06.15, 3 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: See above for Electric Funeral Fest IV. Here is this night’s programme of performances:
4:40 – 5:20 Casket Huffer
5:40 – 6:20 Sun Voyager
6:40 – 7:20 Trapped Within Burning Machinery
7:40 – 8:20 The Munsens
8:40 – 9:20 Fotocrime
9:40 – 10:20 Call of The Void
10:40 – 11:25 Dead Meadow
12:45 – 1:25 Bummer
Mutiny Information Cafe Stage:
3:00 – 3:40 Red Mesa
4:00 – 4:40 Upon a Fields Whisper
5:00 – 5:40 Horseneck
6:00 – 6:40 Dizz Brew
7:00 – 7:40 Dysphotic
What:Jamila Woods w/Duendita When: Saturday, 06.15, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Jamila Woods recently released Legacy! Legacy! with song titles drawn from names of some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers of color from America and beyond. Rarely do musicians name check the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters and others of similar cachet at all much less with such style and soulfulness. Woods’ voice is commanding and wise and one gets the sense you’re learning something about the human beings named as they impacted Woods as a person and an artist in her own right. She doesn’t pretend to speak for them but reflect their deep influence through her own lens and how their work has inspired her to do what she hopes is interesting and worthy in her own right. It’s a deep record worth repeated listens. Fans of Nina Simone and Erykah Badu should give Woods a listen.
Sunday | June 16
What:Natural Velvet, Church Fire, Rabbit Fighter and Bert Olsen When: Sunday, 06.16, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Natural Velvet bassist/singer Corynne Ostermann told the Baltimore Sun in 2016 “’Basically, we aim to be a “Sailor Moon” villainess.’” And who wouldn’t want to see that band? Apparently a post-punk band it sure has some nefarious punk energy but the fun kind like what you might imagine a raccoon is thinking. A good fit with Denver’s industrial dance pop powerhouse trio Church Fire whose subversive and politically charged music is not just cathartic but deeply emotional on multiple levels. This is the last show post-punk/dream pop duo Bert Olsen is playing under that name. The group recently lost its drummer and is changing to maybe using a drum machine and changing focus a bit and taking on the name Gila Teen. But it’ll still be Hunter Woods and Aidan Bettis on vocals/guitar and bass respectively so the same luminously evocative songwriting will remain.
Tuesday | June 18
What:Pile w/State Champion and Warring Parties When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pile has long been making the kind of post-punk/noise punk/lo-fi music that never really sounds like anyone else. Its new record Green and Gray is filled with the band’s signature, and always interesting, counter-point guitar riffing and richly varied song dynamics. The group switches up the pace in a song, conveying the way a mood will pass through your mind as you’re working through memories and contemplating what your life should be about and diving deep into how it really is. All their records are worth a listen and the latest one may be their best.
What:Charly Bliss w/Emily Reo When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: On 2017’s Guppy, Charly Bliss sounded a bit like other bands mining the 90s, fuzzy alternative pop bands for inspiration but with great energy and Eva Hendricks’ ebullient vocals. With Young Enough the group’s emotional palette seems to have grown exponentially and its sound evolved into a kind of atmospheric power pop but somehow without losing the verve that powered its full-length debut.
What:Lavender Fest Denver: Where in the Hell is Lavender House? The Longmont Potion Castle Story (screening) When: Tuesday, 06.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Longmont Potion Castle is the phone prank wizard extraordinaire of all time. His early use of odd sound processing methods for prank calling in the 80s and early 90s went above and beyond other, perhaps more well-known prank call “comedians.” Still mysterious after all these years someone finally made a documentary about his exploits and it’s screening tonight at the Oriental.
What:Operators w/Doomsquad When: Tuesday, 06.18, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dan Boeckner is best known for being in some of the most interesting rock bands of the past two decades including Wolf Parade and Divine Fits. But in the past five years and more he’s been in a band that now includes Devojka, Sam Brown and Dustin Hawthorne that has been exploring the use of analog synths to write the kind of bright, brooding pop songs that wouldn’t sound out of place at some weird “New Wave” in the early 80s that hosted the likes of Gary Numan, Sparks and Fad Gadget. Rather than simply ethereal melodies, Operators has a robust low end in its mix giving the music some real power and momentum rather than merely sounding pretty. The quartet is currently touring in support of its 2019 full-length Radiant Dawn.
Wednesday | June 19
What:Wand w/Dreamdecay When: Wednesday, 06.19, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Wand bridged the gap between weirdo, psychedelic lo-fi rock à la Pavement with the heaviest metal but without ever come off live like a metal band. More like indie rock nerds who never had to turn their nose up at the kinds of dynamics and sounds one heard in 70s hard rock, prog, the more inspired jam bands and stuff like Sleep. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2019 album Laughing Matter. On the latter it sounds like the group has been listening to some more post-punk and post-rock like Slint.
What:Mastodon and Coheed and Cambria and Every Time I Die When: Wednesday, 06.19, 5 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: On Mastodon’s 2009 album Crack the Sky the Atlanta-based metal quartet aimed to write their version of a classic rock album with strong melodies and great mood and solid songwriting. True enough the overall tenor of the record with its dynamics out of step with most metal at the time, but anticipating where so many rock bands, not just metal, would go over the next decade. This is sort of a Tenth Anniversary type tour but the band recently recorded an homage to its late manager Nick John called “Stairway to Nick John” that is a cover of the Led Zeppelin song that some people may have heard at some point in their lives. The single was released on Record Store Day and the proceeds are going to benefit the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.
Who:Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.
Who:Life After Earth and Brother Saturn When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.
What:Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5 When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.
Who:Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.
Who:Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m. Where: Tandem Bar Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.
Saturday | April 13
Who:DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.
Who:Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: People’s Building Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.
Who:Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.
Who:Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.
Who:Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.
Sunday | April 14
Who:Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”
All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.
In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.
Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.
Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.
After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.
2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.
What:Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.
Monday | April 15
Who:Ex Hex w/Moaning When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.
Tuesday | April 16
Who:Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.
Who:Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.
Who:Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.
Wednesday | April 17
What:HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.
Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.
Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.
Who:Tokyo Rodeo w/The Born Readies, The Vashon Seed and Landgrabbers When: Thursday, 02.21, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: There’s a not insignificant segment of Denver underground music consisting of bands that play all the dive bars and small clubs, garnering an audience but playing music that isn’t being championed much by the local press. But solid bands with good energy and presence and songwriting chops. Some of it straight ahead, bluesy, or southern fried, rock, some of it with a leg in other styles of music but always respectable. In recent years some of these bands included Cutthroat Drifters, The Patient Zeroes and, of course, Tokyo Rodeo. Meaningful storytelling, unexpectedly interesting moods mixed in with layered dynamics and nuanced rhythms that a straight-ahead rock band eschews in favor of run-of-the-mill rocking. There’s more depth to Tokyo Rodeo than all of that and while probably not for everyone that might read this site for the weird music, absolutely worthwhile.
Who:The Gones, Calamity Champs and Sunrise Drive When: Thursday, 02.21, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Matt Sumner and Kelly Prestridge are the rhythm section of weirdo art pop band The Inactivists. Sure, plenty of humor there, but also a lot of respectable musical talent. The Gones are their power pop band. Because of who they are along with songwriter and guitarist Jef Krauth there is a sense of humor informing the music but really just a great pop band with some punk energy driving it.
Friday | February 22, 2019
Who:Bison Bone album release w/The River Arkansas and Jess Parsons When: Friday, 02.22, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bison Bone is releasing Take Up The Trouble tonight. The Denver-based Americana band has always written sonically diverse story songs with a literary flair. The new set of recordings seems less dusky than previous offerings but ineffably more direct and confident. Live, like a great honky tonk band that hasn’t devolved into self-parody.
What:Lifeforce 35mm When: Friday, 02.22, 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This concludes The Scream Screen series celebrating the films of Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Lifeforce is his 1985 homage to Hammer horror films in the science fiction disaster fame with the antagonists in the form of three naked vampires from space. Which sounds more lurid and corny than this dark and unusual movie happens to be.
Who:The Bellrays w/The Atom Age and Hot Apostles When: Friday, 02.22, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The BellRays are what a lot of bluesy garage rock bands want to be. From Riverside, California, sounding like they hung out with the MC5 in the late 60s. Fronted by the charismatic Lisa Kekaula since the early 90s, The Bellrays are one of the greatest American rock and roll bands right now.
Who:How to Think, Full Bleed, I’m a Boy When: Friday, 02.22, 7:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: The latest in the Get Your Ears Swoll series at The People’s Building in Aurora. I’m A Boy is one of the most underappreciated, yet best, most dynamic live rock bands out of Denver. Part glam, part power pop, the group includes former and current members of 40th Day and Gata Negra. How to Think claims to be an experimental rock band and it is but its soundsculpting on various songs is like if a funk band abstracted that a whole lot and made use of loops and a sampling aesthetic. Other times How to Think is an unadulterated yet unusual, noisy rock band the likes we saw more of in the heyday of alternative rock before that whole thing got reduced to a limited genre.
Saturday | February 23, 2019
Who:Plastic Daggers EP release w/Its Just Bugs, FATHERS When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Kind of a Sailor Records showcase but this time in celebration of the release of Plastic Daggers’ latest EP Stitches. Somewhere between punk and bluesy garage rock, Plastic Daggers are appropriately named with their fuzzy riffs honed to a fine edge propelled by a nearly mechanistic drive. Its Just Bugs blends hip-hop, metal, punk and noise for a sound and presentation that seems coherent and of a while despite its eclectic sonic palette. FATHERS is a post-hardcore band for fans of the likes of Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan.
Who:American Standards, Kenaima, Tuck Knee, Didaktikos When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is a hardcore show featuring some of Denver’s best younger bands in that vein of music. Catch them early on in their development before they have it figured out.
Who:Rat Bites (last show), Grave Moss (last show), Moon Pussy and Dead Characters When: Saturday, 02.23, 9 p.m. Where: Carioca Café Why: Noise rock band Grave Moss has the vibe of an early death rock band but the exorcistic quality of some 80s and/or early 90s performance art like something Diamanda Galas or Karen Finley might have done. Unfortunately, the band is calling it quits after this show. And so is Rat Bites, a group that might have fit in best during the heyday of 31G Records where its unconventional punk wouldn’t have seemed as out of step with where punk went boring. Moon Pussy is similarly-minded and its use of truly inventive guitar treatments built from the onboard electronics out alongside cathartic vocals and rhythms that operate at odd angles against rock orthodoxy makes it one of the most interesting bands in Denver or anywhere now. For fans of Daughters and Parts & Labor.
Sunday | February 24, 2019
Who:Bryce Vine w/Travis Thompson and 7715 When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Bryce Vine is not yet widely known but that’s likely to change with the spring 2019 release of his debut full-length Carnival on Warner Brothers. His deftly executed raps combine aspirational fantasizing (while making it seem attainable if not already inevitable) and introspective speculation. His coolly confident vocals seem to transfer that quality to the listener. With beats that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-crated, electronic indie pop song, Bryce’s music has a cross-genre appeal with undeniable swagger and elegance.
Monday | February 25, 2019
Who:Talos with Aurora When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Talos, aka Eoin French, recently released his second album Far Out Dust on February 8, 2019. It’s emotionally soaring, richly melodic synth pop. French is skilled at putting together tiny details in a song like he’s live composing an impressionistic film that evolves into something with greater density of detail and color as it progresses on its timeline. His vocal range lends his songs an unconventional range of sonic texture with interesting upper register intonation. Fans of Perfume Genius will find much to like with Talos and his articulation of yearning without desperation.
Who:Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus When: Monday, 02.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Peter Murphy and David J were two of the four founders of influential art rock/post-punk band Bauhaus. For this tour the two musicians will perform selections from the band’s iconic albums in celebration of the forty years of the group’s founding. Though inspired by glam rock, punk and dub, Bauhaus was also steeped in the avant-garde in film, music, literature and theater. It gave their performances a ritualistic quality that its members took to their projects after Bauhaus initially split up in 1983 (with reunions in 1998 and a brief return from 2005 through 2008). With Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins having toured in 2017 playing Tones On Tail songs as Poptones, maybe we’ll get to see a Love and Rockets tour for Hot Trip To Heaven (as the band never toured for that record, one of its best) or even a full-fledged Bauhaus reunion. Until that now remote possibility this is as close as you’re going to get to seeing these songs get their proper delivery.
Tuesday | February 26, 2019
Who:Serengeti w/French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: David Cohn aka Serengeti is a prolific musical and artistic chameleon. He often adopts a persona that shapes the aesthetic of a musical project so that when he performs those songs you’ll get a truly idiosyncratic show. Whether that’s as Kenny Dennis or his numerous collaborations with other notable underground/alternative hip-hop artists like Why?, Jel & Odd Nosdam, Sufjan Stevens Sicker Man, Cohn’s imagination and creative vision brings a focus to the project that would be difficult to duplicate or imitate. Opening the show is synth pop/performance art superstar French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $, Denver’s premiere ambient gangsta rap/abstract dub mystic trio. Maybe the only one but an act not to miss on any bill.
Who:Bob Mould Band w/The Trujillo Company When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: For those not in the know, Bob Mould was the pioneering guitarist for Hüsker Dü, a band that operated between the late 70s through the late 80s and one that often played and toured in the punk underground of its hometown of Minneapolis and far beyond. But it never fully fit in with the hardcore scene because its sonics were too weird and its knack for beautiful melodies amidst sometimes abrasive music too much like pop. Hüsker Dü was making a music for the future and exerted a massive influence on all guitar music of the alternative rock era by the early 90s. Mould would start a new band called Sugar as well as launch a solo career immediately after the 1987 dissolution of Hüsker Dü and has navigated a respectable musical career since. Mould still plays with the drive and passion that informed any of his previous projects and his 2019 album on Merge, Sunshine Rock, could be a safely personal record, and it’s not short on that, but Mould injects some of the sharp social and political critique that made Hüsker so interesting but poetically taking on modern concerns with an ear for nuance.
Who:Frankie and the Witch Fingers w/Lot Lizard and Eye and the Arrow When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Frankie and the Witch Fingers sound like they absorbed a ton of early garage and surf rock and the Nuggets compilation then realized they couldn’t simply regurgitate and mime it in the 2000s after so many other bands had done that so well since the 60s. Their music isn’t that fast, silly riffing and then primal scream formula that “worked” for too many bands in the 2010s. Rather, as evidenced on the group’s excellent full-length ZAM, Frankie and the Witch Fingers brought the elegant and intricate leads and the imagination to its songs. They have songs called “Dracula Drug,” “Dark Sorcerer” and “Head Collector” so clearly an offbeat sense of humor and appreciation for kitsch is part of the group’s musical DNA. Yet, the band never comes off as gimmicky or silly. Direct support is post-punk band Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (read our interview with bassist Patrick Nelson here) whose own ghostly garage psych underpinnings fit in well with this bill.
Wednesday | February 27, 2019
Who:Thumpasaurus w/Boogie Mammoth and Denver Jamtronica When: Wednesday, 02.26, 7:30 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Sure, Thumpasaurus drummer/producer is Henry Was, son of Don Was. But pedigree is not necessarily and indication of one’s artistic talent. But Thumpasaurus, on the surface a wildly eclectic, weirdo funk band and one informed by a bizarre creative vision that incorporates meme culture (see their video for “You Are So Pretty”), outfits that look like someone borrowed liberally from designers who were told to make clothes for an adult contemporary punk band inspired by a peak EDM light show and the strangeness of Frank Zappa telling listeners to talk to any vegetable. Whatever the constellation of influences, Thumpasaurus have made it their own and now the group is touring in support of its 2018 album The Book of Thump.
Who:The Damned w/Radkey and The Darts When: Thursday, 10.25, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: The Damned famously released the first UK punk single “New Rose” on October 22, 1976 through Stiff Records. While the group didn’t cause as much of a stir as the Sex Pistols or garner as much fame as The Clash, it has, long term has arguably been as influential as both on not just punk generally but also post-punk and Goth with its aesthetic, musically and in terms of visual style. After several lineup changes, including founding member Captain Sensible coming and out of the band, The Damned have persisted as a vital live act. In 2018 the group released its first album in a decade: Evil Spirits. Easily the band’s best, most satisfying record since the late 70s, Evil Spirits doesn’t break new ground, it just reaffirms the fact that The Damned may have been punk but it’s also one not short on strong songwriting. Sounding somewhere between a more raw 70s glam band and thoughtful 80s post-punk, the new set of songs from The Damned are a somewhat melancholic take on the state of the world but inside that tonality is a spirit of defiance through creativity. Also on this tour is Radkey, a trio comprised of the Radke brothers whose style of garage punk is more in the vein of early pioneers like Death and, well, The Damned.
Who:Fathers and Muscle Beach Tour Kickoff w/Nightwraith and Limbwrecker When: Thursday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Two of Denver’s metallic, post-hardcore bands are going on tour and celebrating the occasion with this kickoff tour. Fathers includes now former members of Lords of Fuzz, Black Acid Devil, Cult of the Lost Cause and Native Daughters so its heavy music pedigree is respectable enough. But it’s debut, self-titled record, out in Fall 2017 forged a bit of a different musical identity for its members with music akin to the aggressive and thorny drive and dynamism of bands like Converge and Coalesce. Muscle Beach, especially its newer material, compresses a great amount of energy and movement into a small span of time and cuts out the inessential. In doing so, the trio’s songs defy easy genre designation and despite its relentless energy there is a grace and fluidity to music not really designed to possess either quality.
Friday | October 26, 2018
Who:Kamasi Washington w/Victory When: Friday, 10.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Kamasi Washington is reaping the benefits of a lifetime of learning and honing his craft and bringing to the playing of saxophone and composing music a creativity that has some critics and fans placing him among the jazz legends of yesteryear. History will decide if Washington is worthy of such accolades but his body of work and his various collaborations in the worlds of jazz and hip-hop speaks for itself. He is among one of the true talents bridging various realms of music with equal aplomb. In that way he and bassist Thundercat have much in common as both have contributed to albums by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop producer and rapper Kendrick Lamar as well as releasing acclaimed and innovative albums in their own rights. In 2018, released both a full-length with Heaven and Earth and a companion EP The Choice. Difficult to assess Washington’s legacy at this point but this is a chance to witness his music live at a medium-sized venue either at The Ogden Theatre or tomorrow night in Boulder at The Boulder Theater.
Who:Sharone & The Wind’s Night of Terror 2 w/Shattered Halo, Married a Dead Man, Dead But Fancy, Rotten Reputation When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Moe’s Original BBQ, Englewood Why: As Sharone & The Wind have developed over the past two years as a band, it has also established itself as a theatrical live act. No holiday is more suited to the group’s dark, emotionally-charged, art metal than Halloween. For the second year running, the band has assembled friends and peers to share a set at Moe’s Original BBQ to ring in the holiday with what will surely be a set that will include props and go beyond a band merely getting on stage and rocking.
Who:1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 1: Dragondeer Vs. Bowie w/Def Knock and The Milk Blossoms When: Friday, 10.26, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: If the members of Dragondeer weren’t incredibly talented musicians they wouldn’t be able to play their own brand of psychedelic blues much less take on the musical identities of two bands whose music is part of the DNA of international rock music whether acknowledged or not. On Friday night, the group will play songs from the catalog of David Bowie, an artist whose musical corpus combined exquisite, thoughtful, pop music and the avant-garde in various proportions with little regard to strict genre conventions. Opening this first night is The Milk Blossoms, a band whose emotionally tender yet fierce pop songs show how you can seem to be writing from secret places but have the requisite personal bravery to bare the art made from there to the world.
Who:Bluebook EP release w/Shark Dreams and Midwife When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Bar Why: It’s been a minute since Bluebook released anything. Julie Davis has been busy with other, equally fascinating projects and having a child, among other things. The new Bluebook material, part of which can be heard on the new EP The Astronaut’s Wife, was written with Jess Parsons and while it contains some of the familiar elements that have made Davis’ music interesting from very early on like her vivid, commanding voice and her use of a difficult to manage and master instrument like upright bass along with various loops and the sounds that Parsons brings to the project. There is a mysterious quality to the band’s presentation of the music these days too and that just gives the storytelling a bit of an atmospheric edge. Also on the bill is one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and organic soundscapers, Midwife.
Who:Fidlar w/Dilly Dally and Side Eyes When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Fidlar could have just been another garage punk band except that Zac Carper and Elvis Kuehn met while working at a recording studio and thus had a better than average sense of what made recordings sound good and what kind of preparation a band might need to undertake in order to not waste a lot of time not getting what they want out of that process. Nevertheless, there is a freshness to its sound that has as much in common with 2010s indie pop as it does with post-Reatards garage punk—catchy tunes, a little loose around the edges, irreverent and self-deprecating. The group will release its new record Almost Free on January 25, 2019 but you’ll get to hear a good deal of it first on this tour.
Who:Rot Congress When: Friday, 10.26, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Hot Congress was the promising indie rock label that, for a time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, galvanized a certain segment of the Denver music scene with releases, promotion, events featuring its artists and an eccentric yet striking aesthetic. The label hasn’t been active in years but it maintains its Halloween tradition of gathering local Denver bands associated with Hot Congress for a show called Rot Congress at which the bands dress up and have, on occasion, taken up humorous alternate names. Here is a schedule for this year’s event, all times p.m.: 9:30 Zealot, 10:15 Kissing Party, 11 The Interesting Times Gang, 11:45 The Jinjas.
Saturday | October 27, 2018
Who:Ian Sweet w/Young Jesus When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ian Sweet is Jillian Medford’s vehicle for exploring the intersections between one’s own neuroses and her responsibilities to others, some of whom she has taken on a type of caretaker role. Or so she so poetically articulates on her 2018 sophomore record Crush Crusher. With luminous melodies, gentle and textured rhythms and lush soundscapes, Medford crafts songs that reflect a strength of character of necessity balanced against the crushing anxiety that develops when battling your own demons and making sure those under your care, formally or otherwise, don’t go neglected. It’s rock, it’s indie pop., it’s dreamy stuff but because of the subject matter and Medford’s imaginative songwriting it has a heft yet uplifting quality suggesting a complexity not heard enough in popular music. Also on the bill, Young Jesus whose what one might call indie prog songs recall late 90s math rock where that music mixed with 90s emo. A bit like Minus the Bear but more melancholy.
Who:1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 2: Dragondeer Vs. The Dead w/Dog City Disco When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: This second night of Dragondeer’s Halloween show features the band taking on the challenging repertoire of the Grateful Dead. As pioneers of DIY, independent music having a viable existence and the soundtrack to a real moment of American counterculture, the Grateful Dead’s can be polarizing. But its blend of psychedelia, bluegrass and improvisational jazz has often been imitated by hundreds of bands with mixed results. But if you go and check out any one of the group’s early records without having some bias getting in the way, it’s interesting stuff unlike much of anything else going on at the time with truly masterful improvisational live performances captured on some bootlegs and its own official live releases, particularly Europe ’72. Will Dragondeer be up to the challenge and not be like so many wack wannabes in the jam band scene? Likely so given the level of talent involved.
Who:The Crüxshadows, Seraphim Shock, Radio Scarlet and DJ Mudwulf When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: The Crüxshadows are one of the very few bands that combine trance and dark wave that doesn’t immediately inspire a chuckle. Mainly because the band has found a way to make that sound good rather than the laughable EBM/Future Pop thing that plagued the late 90s and the 2000s. Joining the Florida band for this show are two Denver bands. Industrial rock/trashy vampire costume performance art band Seraphim Shock are legends in certain Goth circles in Denver. Since the mid-90s, the group has somehow made the schlocky-ness of industrial rock, pop metal and Gothic aesthetics as manifested in the popularity of vampire mythos in the 90s with the novels of Anne Rice and the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, maybe even Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue novels, seem not so hokey or gloriously so. Seraphim Shock has been that band to synthesize all of it and make it highly entertaining for over two decades now. Radio Scarlett might be the only legit death rock band in the Mile High City. Even if it turns out it’s the only one, it’s at least good. Okay, there’s Grave Moss too and both are excellent bands.
Who:Cyclo-Sonic, The Gurkhas, Cyanidols and Gata Negra When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: The Skylark Why: Some of Denver punk’s elder, but not elderly, punk musicians who are still playing in respectable bands will take the stage at The Skylark tonight. Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of The Choosey Mothers, The Fluid, The Frantix and Rok Tots and they can still pull off a spirited performance. Cyanidols include a handful of Denver punk and indie rock veterans including former Tarmints and The Symptoms bassist/vocalist Sonya Decman and Chris Kieft and Oscar Pop who have played in too many notable bands to name going back to the 80s Denver punk underground. Gata Negra is Whitney Rehr’s bluesy punk/power pop band when she’s not also playing in I’m A Boy.
Sunday | October 28, 2018
Who:Textures: Herpes Hideaway, Haunted Sound Lab, Victoria Lundy When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This edition of Textures will feature a special encore presentation of Herpes Hideaway’s creepy diorama and puppet set to accompany his dark ambient music and usual witches’ costume. Appropriately enough Haunted Sound Lab will perform as well as Victoria Lundy who will grace the night with her haunting, classically-inspired Theremin and synth compositions. Maybe she’ll reprise parts of her Miss American Vampire release show.
Who:Insane Clown Posse w/Clownvis Presley, Dirty Rotten Rhymers, Swizzy J and Hex Rated (LSP) When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m. Where: Stampede Why: Insane Clown Posse brings its dark carnival to Aurora, Colorado for a show at Stampede. The latter is a club that has in years past been known more as a home to country music. But its large dance floor and upper floor open to the performance space lends itself well to larger shows in general. No need to explain ICP but it’s live shows are highly entertaining with lots of over the top stage antics and a high level of surreal kitsch and fun even if you’re not into the music. Clownvis Presley is, yes, an Elvis tribute act with a clown version of Elvis providing the vocals and the name of the band. ICP hasn’t been to the Denver area for a long time despite the Mile High City being a place in America where it is most popular so maybe the guys have something special in store for this tour around Halloween.
Tuesday | October 30, 2018
Who:Black Moth Super Rainbow w/The Stargazer Lilies and Air Credits When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Black Moth Super Rainbow amalgamated Tom Fec’s sound experiments with making the musical equivalent of collage art, giving it an even more organic and fuzzy around the edges, analog quality than simply processed sampling. As with other artists who mastered their own production style in a like-minded vein such as Boards of Canada, cLOUDED and J Dilla, Fec and BMSR created an otherworldly and transporting sound with a sense of innocence about it yet often profane and frank in content. Adopting stage names (Tobacco and Seven Fields of Aphelion, for instance), BMSR’s shows are often an immersive experience creating an emotional and imaginative zone for the night. The band’s latest full-length, 2018’s Panic Blooms, is an even further reach into abstraction as a means of conveying a direct link into the realms of imagination and emotion. BMSR has always been an alchemical blend of hip-hop, psychedelic electronic music and IDM but one grounded in a working class culture in middle America where a sense of one’s isolation breeds aspirational daydreaming and/or drug abuse as a means of escaping the dream shattering mundanity of everyday life. Where you can see on TV and in media a more glamorous life that seems out of reach of everyone you know and you look at your own life and think, “Is this it? Forever?” BMSR’s music honors that desperation and melancholy while making music suggesting other options and possibilities and finding the extraordinary even within your own psychic angst and disappointment.
Who:Sugar Candy Mountain, Ancient Elk and Palo Santo When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Sugar Candy Mountain’s hazy tropicalia and psych folk pop sounds like what a handful of their music videos look like—the soundtrack to a road trip across the American west in a future imagined by Jim Jarmusch. The band’s new record Do Right takes its songwriting beyond the languid, single note picking that is the specialty of bands nicking the Laurel Canyon inspired garage rock vibe for a kind of retrofuturist sound that might be compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three California’s trilogy, in particular 1988’s The Gold Coast. Nerdy science fiction comparison’s aside, Sugar Candy Mountain may on the surface sound like another pop psychedelia band but its imaginative songwriting and knack for capturing a modern sense of wanderlust and dissatisfaction without going dark is not just refreshing but extraordinary.
Who:Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Amigo the Devil’s latest album, Everything is Fine, as in not, is like a collection of modern noir short stories with a darkly humorous bent. That it’s pretty much just Danny Kiranos and his acoustic guitar (with some very minimal percussion and piano on various songs) is even more impressive because it feels full and that anything more would take away from the stark beauty of the songwriting. There’s a song called “Cocaine and Abel,” another called “Hungover in Jonestown,” yet another called “I Hope Your Husband Dies”—all suggesting skullduggery and over-the-top scenes. But there’s a tenderness and sensitivity there too, a nuance of emotion that hits you unexpectedly like the quieter moments in a Cormac McCarthy novel. A great set of music for Halloween week but also enjoyable beyond any seasonal appeal because Kiranos’ music comes from the heart and not a sense of lurid kitsch.
Wednesday | October 31, 2018
Who:Itchy-O Hallowmass w.Echo Beds When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Itchy-O recently released its best album to date with Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo. It doesn’t capture the live show because no recording could but as a listening experience it takes you into realms of experience that are an analogue and a companion to the live show that is enjoyable on its own. If you can’t witness the spectacle of a thirty plus member band dressed up as operatives of an inter-dimensional band of mystics and penitents of a an ethos dedicated to human liberation and artistic exploration through group performance art for yourself the record is plenty rewarding on its own. But if you can, make it to one of the band’s infrequent shows and take in its controlled chaos on its terms. For this show the group will share the stage with Echo Beds, the Denver industrial punk band whose own new album, Buried Language, is a leap forward for the band’s presentation in the recorded format. Live, with the oil drum and vocal caterwaul, electronic percussion and cutting guitar work, Echo Beds is as thrilling and forbidding as its recordings suggest and a perfect parallel artist for the way the records translate on the part of Itchy-O.
Who: Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: For Amigo the Devil, see above for 10/30/18.
Who:Danzig 30 Year Anniversary w/Venom Inc., Power Trip and Mutoid Man When: Wednesday, 10.31, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Danzig will perform cuts from across his solo career. Sometimes the music borders on corny but really melodramatic in the best sense but always dark and honest about that side of Danzig’s psyche. On other tours the band plays the hits but for this one the group will dig a little deeper into the catalog.
Who:Colfax Speed Queen, Ned Garthe Explosion, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Spirit Award When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Spirit Award’s new album Muted Crowd is a good one for the Halloween holiday considering the song “Supreme Truth” is about Japan’s terror cult Aum Shinrikyo and “Witching Hour” is based on singer/guitarist Daniel Lyon’s encounters with the paranormal in a house in Seattle. But the music isn’t spooky so much as dense with energized atmospheres, echoing vocals and urgent rhythms. The Seattle-based trio will be joined by three of Denver’s own off beat rock and roll bands with Colfax Speed Queen’s post-psych garage, Ned Garthe Explosion’s humorous yet intense and colorful take on psychedelic rock and Vic N’ The Narwhals time traveling southern California via the American southwest presentation of R&B-inflected surf rock.