What:Rubedo’s Independence Day V w/Matt Embree (member RX Bandits, Dispatch and The Sound of Animals Fighting), Poor Bodhi, DJ Reubot When: Thursday, 07.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For five years now Rubedo has been doing an Independence Day show that includes friends and comrades in music and cultural resistance. This year includes Matt Embree, frontman of eclectic prog/punk/psych band Rx Bandits who is also a member of post-hardcore supergroup The Sound of Animals Fighting. Rubedo itself is no stranger to being difficult to pigeonhole. All its players have a degree of respectable musical chops and adept at mixing improvised sections in the songs based on the mood of the moment. One might call it a prog band because of the direct influence of The Mars Volta but also psychedelic rock and indirectly the musical thinking and techniques of hip-hop even though its all live instrumentation. The storytelling and themes of Rubedo songs somehow also manage to be positive and aimed toward a better future and celebrating the present without coming off as insincere.
Friday | July 5
What:Pictureplane w/OptycNerd and DEBR4H When: Friday, 07.05, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pictureplane returns to Denver where he first made waves in the underground beyond his home state of New Mexico. As one of the residents of Rhinoceropolis he was a real ambassador to experimental electronic dance bands in Denver and far beyond, evangelizing the DIY ethic and Rhinoceropolis and Monkey Mania to the places far and wide including performances in Russia. His musical style has evolved over the years and recently included more industrial textures and sounds but at his core, he’s an idiosyncratic artist who is trying to push his aesthetic in interesting directions.
Saturday | July 6
What:Get Your Eyes Swoll: Last Humans, Tears to Li6ht and Gothsta When: Saturday, 07.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of GYES features dark chillwave artist Tears to Li6ht, lush Americana band Last Humans and Gothsta which is series host Claudia Woodman in her guise as a weirdo Goth pop star known for bizarre covers and even stranger originals.
What:Angry Hand of God, Never Kenezzard, Flat Earth When: Saturday, 07.06, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: A doom/stoner rock show featuring the now active again Angry Hand of God which experienced a bit of a heyday in the late 2000s before Denver metal, with a few notable exceptions, started attracting much attention outside of Colorado. Also on the bill is Never Kenezzard whose mixture of sludge rock, prog and psychedelia pushes the boundaries of heavy rock into innovative territory.
What:Short Shorts album release, Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Safekeeper and Florea When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Short Shorts is a four-piece from Denver who will release their new EP Hang-Ups tonight. Somewhere betwixt surf rock and the kind of punk with a footing in 2010’s garage rock, Short Shorts have a sound that fans of the likes of Tacocat and Bully might enjoy. Echoes of 90s K Records bands. Also with song titles like “Jumbotron Debutate” and “Quantum Entanglement” the band’s pop songs are clearly a cut above and more thoughtful than one might expect from a band with a name like Short Shorts. On the bill are like-minded acts like the dark Americana band Florea and Sour Boy, Bitter Girl. The latter has a real knack for taking down and out sensibilities and turning them into earnest and thought-provoking pop songs with a literary flair.
What:Heart Bones feat. Har Mar Superstar and Sabrina Ellis w/Good Fuck and Mark Mallman When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Two powerhouse performers in the same soulful synth pop band? Har Mar Superstar has long been putting on the most absurdly entertaining performances mixing soul and punk an dance music while Sabrina Ellis has been the animated and powerful frontwoman of A Giant Dog. Also, Good Fuck, the latest project from Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse, is like an experimental electronic German pop band but more like ADULT. than electroclash. Its 2019 self-titled album is a moody and spacious set of dark, noisy, techno industrial dance music.
Sunday | July 7
What:Priests w/Olivia Neutron John When: Sunday, 07.07, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Fiercely DIY band Priests releases its what might be described as post-punk glam through its own label Sister Polygon Records. With the latter the group has helped to advocate for like-minded artists critical of the oligarchy like Downtown Boys and Snail Mail. It’s latest record is The Seduction of Kansas. Theatrical and dynamic, Priests make its flamboyantly strange aesthetic accessible. Olivia Neutron John is the dark, post-punk electroclash type of solo project of Anna Nasty whose 2019 self-titled debut is driven by brooding and stark low end and plenty of punk attitude.
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Sunday, 07.07, 5:30 p.m. Where: Hudson Gardens Why: Melissa Etheridge is a cultural icon in various ways and beyond being a very public figure in the LGBTQ community going back decades. Before coming out in public in 1993, Etheridge had hit records on college and AOR radio with her 1988 self-titled debut, 1989’s Brave and Crazy and Never Enough from 1992. Etheridge came across as thoughtful, soulful, gritty and she had a kind of gravitas that relatively new artists don’t yet possess. Her songwriting held an appeal that transcended any specific considerations of sexuality and gender and her music even crossed over into the more adventurous radio stations that typically played classic rock mixed with some modern hits. Her first big hits came with “Come to My Window” and “I’m The Only One” from the 1993 album Yes I Am. In 2019 Etheridge released her latest record The Medicine Show—a strong showing of songwriting prowess and performance for an artist this far into a prolific career. It’s almost a hard rock record with Etheridge sounding more confident than ever and heartfelt odes to life and loss.
Monday | July 8
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Monday, 07.08, 6:30 p.m. Where: Chautauqua Auditorium Why: See above for Melissa Etheridge. This show is in the uniquely arranged Chautauqua Auditorium which is a bit like seeing a show in a very large barn with good acoustics.
Tuesday | July 9
What:Bad Religion w/Dave Hause & The Mermaid When: Tuesday, 07.09, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Bad Religion has long been reliable for having something to say in its music across its nearly forty year career and its latest album, 2019’s Age of Unreason, is no different. It’s fifteen tracks of anthemic, melodic punk against Trump and the authoritarian program worldwide in general. If any of it is heavy handed the times call for leaving no ambiguity in resisting the rise of fascism. Musically, one either likes the chances Bad Religion has taken or not but at least with its words the band has used its platform to challenging regressive political and cultural forces and to comment on the same with irreverent wit and intelligence.
Who:Joe Dosik w/Moonglade When: Thursday, 09.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: With funk band Vulfpeck, Joe Dosik is often a bit of a sideplayer on sax and keys but with his recently released solo debut full length Inside Voice, Dosik makes good on the promise of his 2018 EP Game Winner. The lush production and Dosik’s versatile, soulful vocals is like something out of the late 70s or early 80s. Like maybe Dosik sequestered himself away from most modern music and listened mostly to a lot of Billy Paul, Luther Vandross’s 1981 breakout Never Too Much and Joe Jackson’s 1982 album Night and Day. Dosik’s compositions tend to be produced with more space to let atmospherics hang and resolve in a way that great pop artists in the aforementioned era often indulged but which in modern pop seems a bit of an all too human anachronism. These days, that’s the kind of quaint touch we could use more of.
What:Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk at Sie Film Center w/Aaron Cometbus and Anna Brown When: Thursday, 09.13, 6 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Aaron Cometbus’ ‘zine Cometbus has inspired generations of artists from other ‘zinesters, comics creators and musicians. His depiction of life across his body of work captured the moment, low and exciting, in a way few have. He and Anna Brown, a writer, surfer, educator and significant figure in the California punk world since the 80s, will be part of a Q&A after the screening of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, a documentary about the punk scene in the San Francisco Bay area that brought us not just Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll but the rich punk subculture that it documented and continues to do so including, for better or worse, the wave of pop punk that was the next major musical movement from the underground to emerge as alternative rock was splintering and co-opted by mainstream moneyed music industry interests.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Marvel West, Mean Hand, Limber Wolf When: Thursday, 09.13, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: In case anyone missed it, Musical Mayhem, the more or less free format monthly hosted by Claudia Woodman is now at Lion’s Lair. While not mainly “weird” music, Woodman’s tastes tend to run that direction. But on this night American band Marvel West will make an appearance along with Mean Hand, a band led by long time Denver underground rock and punk legend Tom Mestnik. Rumor has it Denver’s luminous western slowcore-esque band Limber Wolf is low key releasing its album at this show as well.
Who:Rabbit Fighter, The Pretty Bones, Nighttimeschoolbus, Miss Owl & the Pull Apart When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Touted as “Girl Power Night at Syntax” this show includes the mighty Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks who combine experimental hip-hop beat making and deeply affecting vocals. Rabbit Fighter has as its Facebook image a scene from Heathers quoting Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder, saying, “DEAR DIARY, I WANT TO KILL.” And, once in a while, who hasn’t felt that? If it really is a pop band at least it’s probably one with some attitude.
Who:Lowfaith record release w/Ridgeway, No Gossip In Braille and Voight When: Thursday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Dream pop/darkwave band Lowfaith is releasing its new album On Loss tonight at Seventh Circle playing with bands in a similar vein. No Gossip In Braille includes Echo Beds frontman Keith Curts and its lush, low key atmospheric rock is almost a polar opposite of his other project in tone and texture. Voight really combines the melancholy mood of a dark post-punk band with the furious energy of a noise punk project. While initially sounding a bit like a a great A Place to Bury Strangers tribute band, the duo has really brought in its more electronic side more fully, giving its already wiry yet brooding sound a calming quality in contrast to its often explosive live intensity.
Friday | September 14, 2018
Who:Cyanidols, Luna Sol, Flat Earth and Landgrabbers When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: For something on the harder edge of Denver’s punk world this would be the show to check out tonight. Cyanidols includes Sonya Decman (whose bass prowess and vocal power brought a good deal to Tarmints, The Symptoms and Brain Police) and Chris Kieft who has been a staple of Denver’s punk scene going back to the 80s along with Oscar Pop. Luna Sol is sort of a stoner rock band and includes Shanda Kohlberg formerly of The Swanks as well as former Supafuzz frontman Dave Angstrom. Landgrabbers is a little more countrified but it is a welcome throwback to that time in the Denver punk scene when a band could simply be good and not have to cater too much to some prevailing trend.
Who:Equine, Housekeys, Shawn Mlekush When: Friday, 09.14, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Distillery Why: Even though most of the local music and culture press is sleeping hard on it, the local experimental music scene is pretty active and sizeable. This low key show at Denver Distillery includes avant-guitar and loop maestro Equine, ambient soundscaper Housekeys and Shawn Mlekush who may be playing some entrancing abstract guitar drones and/or using synth in conjunction. Brought to you by Thought//Forms, the gallery that has been home to some of this music since starting up earlier this year. Who:UaZit, Goon, f-ether, Claudzilla When: Friday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: UaZit from Indiana is this sort of weirdo electronic downtempo project that is as much performance art as it is music. Akin to hip-hop with beats that could work for that but also reminiscent of MC 900 Ft. Jesus. This Goon is not the hardcore band, rather the alternative hip-hop/trap producer. F-ether is somewhere in the realm of dub techno and house. Claudzilla is also an artist that blurs the line between bizarro pop and performance art. She might even do some strange covers as worthy as the originals. But for sure if you think Denver only really produces stuff for the temporary techbro colony that has occupied the Mile High City, Claudzilla is an antidote to such cultural pathologies.
Saturday | September 15, 2018
Who:Nothing w/Culture Abuse, Big Bite and Smut When: Saturday, 09.15, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Nothing has evolved its shoegaze-y sound since its inception having come out of hardcore and other heavier music but without losing some of the dark edge that informs the lyrics. Its new album On the Blacktop seems sonically the most fully-realized of its records with gritty pop washes and burning shines over melancholic vocals. Even though Domenic Palermo still struggles with health issues and the ensuing psychological maladies that predate and have come about because of those, he still manages to find a way to make it all seem like something you can cope with and not be completely subsumed by even if it seems impossible sometimes. Pop punk has long since made a comeback but Culture Abuse makes it seem like the genre isn’t out of ideas musically and thematically. It’s 2018 album Bay Dream looks like some kind of late 90s party record with the graffiti style visuals and it could be if that party involved some deep existential examinations rather than simply melodramatic songs about love lost forever. Smut from Cincinnati sounds like its members already went through that 90s grunge revival phase and discovered more expansive sounds even if right now it is sonically somewhere in the middle in a way that seems more interesting than throwback.
Who:Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel w/Scifidelic and Radio Scarlet When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m. Where: The Venue (1451 Cortez St., Denver) Why: After a bit of a legal battle between Jay Aston and his brother Michael, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel that the band Jay leads gets to use in America while the original band name in the UK and vice versa for Michael. Jay Aston’s band put out its first album in nearly a decade in 2017 with the surprisingly compelling beginning to end album Dance Underwater. The new record gives you a real appreciation for Jay’s talent as a songwriter and musician with a broad tonal and emotional range and great nuance of expression. His band includes members of Gene Loves Jezebel going back to the mid-80s and likely the closest one will get to see the classic line-up of one of post-punk’s underrated groups. In the 80s Gene Loves Jezebel had dance club hits and proved influential on the Goth scene of the time and Jay’s songwriting has been surprisingly durable with his current crop of songs seeming timeless rather than capitalizing on past glory.
Who:Eyebeams EP & Blacklight Poster release w/Kissing Party and An Antiquated Bluff (Josie Cool solo) When: Saturday, 09.15, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Denver’s Eyebeams is releasing its latest EP and blacklight poster tonight at The Skylark. The four-piece makes music that out of having already done the indie pop and psychedelic pop thing and taking the skill set learned there to do something that’s the next step in that creative arc. Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brazil played in some of the best pop/rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s with Games For May, The Pseudo Dates and Fingers of the Sun and wrote literate, smart songs that will presumably someday be part of Denver underground rock canon. Fernando Guzman and Andrew Elkins made their own indelible mark with the experimental/weirdo art rock band Fissure Mystic, a group in which they spent their teen years and early twenties honing the use of raw sound experimentation in a pop song context even if no one would ever really confuse Fissure for being a pop band. Elkins very much brought that sensibility with his end of the songwriting. Allegra played in Fissure for a couple of years, Guzman played in Fingers of the Sun. So Eyebeams is a bit of a consolidation and progression of the musical ideas all four musicians contribute to this band. The new, self-titled, EP demonstrates Allegra’s genius for fully integrating melody with dynamics and for writing songs that have more depth and complexity than simply one emotional flavoring and color without self-indulgent clutter. There is a melancholic tone to all of the songs but also a yearning for knowledge and clarity of oneself yet an acceptance of the reality of ambiguity you come to live with as an adult that as a younger person maybe you churn into melodrama. As a bonus, the band is releasing a special edition blacklight poster of its album cover at the show as well.
Who:Cometbus: Live Reading and Q&A with Aaron Cometbus When: Saturday, 09.15, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: For more on Cometbus see above on Thursday, September 13. For this night, Cometbus is doing a live reading from his body of work with a follow-up Q&A.
Who:WOE, WVRM, Noctambulist and Scepter of Eligos When: Sunday, 09.16, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: The heaviest show of the week, nay, the month happens tonight at the Hi-Dive. Brooklyn’s WOE may be black metal but its furious live performance feels more like seeing Neurosis combining dark, relentless grinding psychedelia with eruptive energy. WVRM from Greenville, South Carolina is on the surface more straight ahead grind but there’s something flowing underneath that suggests someone in the band is deeply into noise and industrial music. That sensibility gives the music an textural quality and vibe that brings even more an edge to the sound. Noctambulist conveys a similar unconventionality to its death metal onslaught. Like they’re crafting atmospheres to replicate those of a Lovecrafting other dimension hanging with Nodens while he sits back while the Great Old Ones bash it out amongst each other seeding the civilizations of mortal life forms with nightmarish it their darker corners. It seems as though doom is a genre that’s starting to get played out but Scepter of Eligos really challenges that notion because its own take on having roots in that music is to inject it with a healthy heaping of more interesting atmospheric and rhythmic qualities that give its songs an uncommon dimensionality in the genre.
Monday | September 17, 2018
Who:Angel Olsen When: Monday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Angel Olsen is currently on her first solo tour in four years. The songwriter spent some time as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Cairo Gang before striking out on her own and making a name for herself with her powerfully evocative voice and her ability to vividly articulate a complexity of emotion through lyrics and casting the perfect tone for the song. These qualities were there from early on but 2016’s My Woman revealed that Olsen wasn’t capable of just having a creative leap forward but transforming the sonic breadth of her music. The clever and wise songs of Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a brilliant indie rock album, My Woman was Olsen coming into her own and embracing possibilities for a record that seemed to convey that one can go forward in life without letting uncertainty be a stumbling block to your progress. For this tour Olsen will be performing stripped down versions of new material as well as some of her older songs yet playing fairly large rooms. Something about that hints at Olsen’s dry, absurdist sense of humor while acknowledging that she’s probably going to have to get used to those settings for the rest of her career.
Who:Gillian Welch and David Rawlings w/Punch Brothers When: Monday, 09.17, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Since early in her career, Gillian Welch has performed with an ineffable gravitas and seemingly easy mastery of her voice and the voicings of her instruments. Maybe her being an orphan, albeit adopted into a musical family, put a haunting in her brain from a young age, a layer of melancholy that many musicians spend a good deal of their 20s and 30s trying to cultivate so that when they try to sing the blues or country or rock and roll it has genuine weight behind songwriting and performance. Welch had that on her 1996 record Revival and has simply evolved into being of the great artists of the modern era alongside her musical partner David Rawlings. At this Welch and Rawlings are no strangers to big format concerts but a late summer show at Red Rocks seems just about perfect for one of their shows.
Tuesday | September 18, 2018
Who:Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco When: Tuesday, 09.18, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Nine Inch Nails has apparently been breaking out some material it hasn’t performed live in quite some time like all of the 1992 EP Broken at its tour kickoff. But that aside, every Nine Inch Nails tour brings one of the best live shows that anyone is doing any given year since the band broke in the late 80s. On a recent tour the group had live set changes on stage in addition to an impressive light show. And as per usual, someone in the NIN camp has great and adventurous tastes in co-headliners and opening acts. In the past NIN has brought on tour underground weirdo rock/electronic bands like Deerhunter, HEALTH and Oneohtrix Point Never. This time out for the co-headlining tour with legendary proto-shoegaze/alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, there will be Tobacco. The enigmatic electronic/psych/noise artist is perhaps more well known for his otherworldly pop band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but Tobacco is a bit of a different animal and at times could be considered a kind of avant-garde hip-hop with truly unique and mind-altering beats.
Who:Sinister Pig, Lion Slicer, Suspicious Activity When: Wednesday, 09.19, 6:30 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Lion Slicer is a punk band from Green Bay, Wisconsin making a stop in Denver on its “Wooly Eggnog Tour Part 2.” Does that mean it’s a little moldy? Who can say but since the show is free you have little to lose seeing it Chain Reaction Records. The band recently released its new record Lion Slicer Part 2, which if you’re into street punk, is great reminder that stuff didn’t die off into complete and utter obsolescence. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s better political hardcore bands with Sinister Pig and Suspicious Activity.
Who:The Mattson 2 and Astronauts, Etc. w/Stop Motion When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc. has written a kind of downtempo masterpiece with his 2018 album Living in Symbol. Something akin to a hazy Laurel Canyon jazz record but one written on the American East Coast while spending the evenings prior to writing in a dimly lit and cozy bar hanging out with Justin Hayward and Joe Jackson. Then taking the recordings infused with all those mysterious, chilled out vibes to Jonathan Rado to put his own haunted psychedelic pop touches into the mixing and mastering. Mattson 2 is cut from a similar cloth albeit one more obviously drawing on jazz roots with real chops to augment its lounge fusion compositions.
Who:Miniature Tigers w/Jasper Bones When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Miniature Tigers came out of the mid-2000s as one of the more promising of Brooklyn’s indie pop bands. Although the influence of The Kinks and Elephant 6 bands were there, Mini Tigers also embraced the use of electronic instruments in its mix of sounds as well but with a more modern rather than retro sensibility. For its 2010 album Fortress the group collaborated on a song with Neon Indian as chillwave was reaching toward the apex of its popularity. The record that broke the band to a national, albeit still fairly underground, audience with touring to promote the album was 2008’s Tell It To The Volcano. This tour commemorates the 10 year anniversary of the release of the album but for a band that has consistently released albums since its inception, it’s a good chance to catch up with what the group is doing now.
Who:Ohmme w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic When: Wednesday, 09.19, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Chicago-based jazz pop duo Ohmme released their debut full-length album Parts in summer 2018 but the group comprised of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart had already established itself as a going concern melding technical prowess, avant-garde sensibilities and imaginative songwriting. The eclectic resume of both musicians including credits working with the likes of Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention and Chance the Rapper. The synergy of their live performances, though, prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with and not a recording project that is taking tentative steps into the live arena.