Kyle Emerson just released his second album as a solo artist, the introspective and thought-provoking Only Coming Down. The songwriter recently relocated back to Los Angeles in August 2019 after a stint back in Denver where he originally came to the attention of fans of psychedelic pop during his stint in the band Plum. For a couple of years, the latter was a bit of a buzz band before it realized that maybe Denver wasn’t the best place to base a band that seemed to have the opportunity expand its reach beyond the local scene, beyond being nominated for local awards and playing the same gauntlet of small clubs and occasionally playing bigger venues like the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater or graduate in draw and popularity to the Gothic Theatre at 1,100. Plum moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and within about a year Emerson had left the band and not long after Plum fizzled out. For some that would have been discouragement enough but not for Emerson who had already relocated once to pursue his dream of being a musician with a career.
Emerson was born in Northern Ohio not far south of Detroit where his father was a worship leader at a non-denominational church. While involved in a worship band Emerson learned some music theory from the group’s leader who also shared his love of Radiohead, indie rock and later era alternative music. Emerson also connected with and studied guitar under a music teacher of a local private school, Patrick Paringer, who had grown up in Seattle and known Elliott Smith. At that time Emerson the current bassist in his live band Dan Volmer who also played in the youth group band.
After high school a number of Emerson’s friends moved to Colorado and Brooklyn. Those that moved to the latter offered to let him join their band and sleep on their couch until he got on his feet. But life in NYC was daunting and Emerson didn’t feel like he was ready to live in the city on his own.
Colorado beckoned in 2014 and before moving to Denver Emerson was blithely unaware of happenings in the state and city. He did not know about the legalization of recreational cannabis or that the city was experiencing its largest and longest period of population growth in many years with many musicians moving to Denver seeking out the opportunity for perceived overnight success of acts like The Lumineers and The Fray or at least to be in a place where music was happening and the scene not yet oversaturated. Emerson’s friend Andrew Bair (now of dream pop phenoms Tyto Alba and other projects), son of the pastor of Emerson’s church in Ohio, had moved to Denver and he felt like with Bair and other friends around he could keep his footing in a less expensive city than New York. So he moved into a two bedroom apartment at Thirteenth Avenue and Marion St. near the former location of the Gypsy House Café and shared a room with Volmer for a few months before moving in with the guys from Plum in the Villa Park neighborhood of west central Denver.
The fledgling band had a lot going for it aside from musical and songwriting talent. Ty Baron was a music business major and did some talent buying at Larimer Lounge, a club where many up and coming acts perform weekly, and Jake Supple had been also playing in Abandin Pictures, a group with some cachet in the local psychedelic rock world (he now performs in Flaural). Both had navigated the local music world both as artists and on the less romantic business end of what it actually means to be in a band that might want to do more than play for a few dollars and free drinks.
But like a lot of bands Plum ran into that often unspoken barrier to a lot of bands from Denver and Colorado generally that prevents most from reaching beyond the local band status. Sure, there are anomalies like the aforementioned Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and on a smaller scale, Tennis. But outside of jam bands and the EDM world, not a lot of in between being bonafide famous and “local band” status regardless of one’s artistic merits. So even though the move and living in cramped quarters in what was essentially a practice space in L.A. lead to the band breaking up, the decision to relocate was understandable. When you have some hype at home it stands to reason you can build that elsewhere, especially when you’re young.
When Emerson left Plum in 2016 he moved back to Denver where he had some roots and connections and wrote and recorded his moving debut solo album, 2017’s Dorothy Alice. It combined Emerson’s insightful lyrics and storytelling with a folky psychedelia and almost textural atmospheric melodies. The sound has become a bit of the songwriter’s signature sound. Emerson had recently split with his then girlfriend and on top of the other experiences it’s no wonder there is more than a bit of a melancholic vibe to Dorothy Alice that is part of its deep appeal. But recorded with Jeff Cormack of pop band South of France and Justin Renaud of psychedelic rock outfit Sunboy the record reflects Emerson’s renewed hope for his music and his affection for the Mile High City.
“It felt very Denver, very Colorado and it felt great to be back,” says Emerson. “I was living back in that old house where Plum was living. It was like picking up where I had left off in a weird way.”
Emerson didn’t waste any time in writing for his sophomore record nor did he intend for it to come across like a journal entry of the last few years as he moved from Denver to Los Angeles, then repeating that same move and the experiences that framed those moves but it does. In writing the new material Emerson had no working title, which he feels might influence the sound of a record and songs chosen for better or worse, it just came to him one day. “You talk about the come down from anything, a natural high or drugs or alcohol or whatever,” says Emerson. “The more I conceptualize it I don’t know if it gets cooler or more lame but I just think there’s something about if you’re only ever coming down then there was no high on the other side of it.”
Emerson also suffered from a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a kid and the acronym has the same letters as Only Coming Down. It reflects the fact that Emerson feels that music was the only thing that got him out of that head space of focusing so much on minutiae to the detriment of a productive life. Now in the process of writing his third record Emerson realized that he had to grow up.
“It’s not a conscious thing for a lot of people and you dabble in things you know you need to move on from,” explains Emerson. “The last two records are about the woes of growing into yourself. You’re always growing up your entire life. It’s not like you get to a certain place and you’ve arrived. There was something about putting a bookend on a lot of the themes I was writing about and the things I was feeling. The title summarized that feeling in so many ways with just three words.”
The heaviness that many listeners heard on Dorothy Alice is still there on Only Coming Down but the early feedback has remarked on it being upbeat. Whether it’s Emerson’s recent decision to use more electronics on the new record since discarding a purist’s disdain for technology or the more than a hint of hope in his songs that often contrast hope and despair, or the songwriter’s compassionate take on his role as a musician, the new album definitely tilts toward the positive.
“I don’t play party music, it’s not like that,” says Emerson. “But it’s like I stand in front of a room full of people who at the end of the day are just there to have a good time and as artistic as this can get and as some songwriters and musicians think they are I do believe in the power of positivity. I didn’t think about that so much when I was younger but now if you can say yeah this sucks but I’m here for you, it’s going to get better. I think that’s more worthwhile to say than it’s all shit and then we die. I think there’s power and reality in both of those, I just find it a little bit easier living in the first one a little easier.”
Catch Emerson live during his run of shows in Colorado with Houndmouth:
What:Lady of Sorrows and Dead Orchids When: Thursday, 04.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series features Lady of Sorrows which is a combination of luminous, synth-driven post-punk and spiritual operatic vocals. It would be a misstep to compare it to Dead Can Dance or Enya or something like that but fans of either might find Lady of Sorrows interesting. Dead Orchids is on the darker end of post-punk but bluesy and gritty.
Friday | April 19
What:OKO TYGRA Album release w/Voight and DJ Noah (of Flaural) When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: OKO TYGRA has been through a few permutations as singer/guitarist Joshua Novak and his bandmates have explored various paths to creating a lush, expansive sound that reflected but was not limited to the sort of dream pop and post-punk that is the group’s foundational influence. With Assistoma the quartet created a fluidly dynamic set of songs that use subtle textures and drifting hazes of melody like Novak is floating in clouds of emotion and memories moving forward and commenting in typically thoughtful fashion on how so much of modern life is conditional on the seemingly tentative nature of relationships (personal, professional, social) while we yearn for something more solid with genuine connection. Although there is an ethereal quality, Novak sings with a warmth that casts his music in a different mode than a lot of the music that influenced him. Grounded in the rhythm and low end, Assistoma’s tracks seem to dance throughout the record with grace and nuance without getting bogged down in any kind of stylistic repetition while maintaining a coherent sonic aesthetic. Also on the bill is industrial post-punk duo Voight who keep threatening to do an all production set but is still always worth seeing for the sheer colossus of wiry energy and sonic intensity of its performances.
What:In The Valley Below presents: The Pink Chateau When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake Why: In The Valley Below is doing a different kind of tour this time around with a sonically immersive live performance and the screening of its film The Pink Chateau. The latter is a sort of silent movie with musical accompaniment in which a series of vignettes involving a young woman follows a stranger into the countryside into dreamlike vignettes exploring the protagonists deep desires and the nature thereof. All inspired by, according to the promotional video on YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=G6H-qvyf72U) “vintage French erotica and the faded colors of 1970s films.” Maybe a bit engimatic like Picnic at Hanging Rock or like a more introspective, non-vulgar Going Places. Whatever the tone or influences, the music of The Pink Chateau is, like much of the band’s music, gorgeously saturated and enveloping giving the experience the aforementioned immersive quality as the soundtrack won’t be provided by a prerecorded track but by a live band.
What:Lost Network, Never Kenezzard, Blinddryve, Wiretrap, DJ Cozmos Mudwulf, visuals Opia When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: With Lost Network and Wiretrap this will be kind of a hybrid of industrial rock and EBM show but not the sort that is steeped in the future pop version of that. Lost Network is a bit like where Ministry should have gone after Filth Pig. Never Kenezzard is an experimental kind of sludge metal band but one more like Unsane if the people in the band were more into Frank Zappa and John Zorn.
What:Shelley Hirsch When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Muse Why: Shelley Hirsch is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose range and diversity doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre. She has worked with John Zorn, Ikue Mori, David Weinstein and Anthony Coleman. Her forceful and imaginative vocal exercises can be both exhilarating and forbidding, eccentric and otherworldly.
What:Space in Time, Halahierba and Keef Duster When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s 4.20 so hey, a show with legitimately worthwhile stoner rock/sludge metal bands should happen somewhere and tonight it’s at the Hi-Dive.
What:Ages and Ages w/The Harmaleighs and Mondegreen When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Ages and Ages has been developing its particularly engaging style of pop music since 2009. Utilizing unconventional percussion alongside a drum set and expertly orchestrated vocals and instrumentation, Ages and Ages sounds like it could have come out of the tail end of the first wave of indie pop with a sound that seems to embrace the infectious melodies of ABBA and the meticulous song craft of Harry Nilsson as well as the experimental flourishes of the Beatles. Of course the influence of The Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control are in the mix. Its 2019 album Me You They We is a beautiful blend of introspective exploration of inner space and the nature of yearning.
What:Half Hearts, Porlolo and Tammy Shine When: Saturday, 04.20, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: It’s the debut of Jason Heller’s and Karen Walton’s new power pop band. Heller is a renowned science fiction author, editor and music writer but he’s also been a member of some of the greatest bands from Denver including Crestfallen, Red Cloud West and The Blue Ontario. Walton has been the drummer for beloved local punk acts like Turbo Knife Fight, Rabid Ragdolls and Naako Deesko. But her musical interests have always been far ranging and her sensibilities with those of Heller seem like a good match. You also get to see Porlolo’s witty, irreverent folk pop and Tammy Shine, the charismatic singer of Dressy Bessy, doing her more or less solo thing.
What:Stick Figure w/Steel Pulse, Pepper, The Movement, Iya Terra, hosted by Nick Swardson When: Saturday, 04.20, 5:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For better or worse, depending on your outlook on these things, there’s a reggae concert at Red Rocks on 4/20. But this one includes Steel Pulse. When the band started in 1975 in Birmingham, England, the home of other working class bands like Black Sabbath and Napalm Death, it helped to shape what reggae would sound like for decades. Its particular sound is more traditional but in a way that has evolved and embrace technology and production. Its latest album, and first in over a decade, is 2018’s Mass Manipulation.
Sunday | April 21
What:Eels w/Inspector Cluzo When: Sunday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Even a seemingly endless prolific and inventive songwriter like Mark Everett hits the wall. And that’s what Everett did following the touring cycle of 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. Absolute burnout pushed the songwriter into taking a break from music after nearly thirty years of exploring a variety of emotional spaces through his songwriting. Having lost his father when he was 19, his sister to suicide in the mid-90s and his mother to lung cancer in the late 90s and a cousin in the 9/11 attacks, Everett has had more than his fair share of personal tragedy. In some ways re-living and processing that in your music gives it a depth and heaviness and an attended ambition to do justice to the subjects that isn’t always there in pop music. But carrying that weight also takes its toll on your psyche and then your life.
With 2018’s The Deconstruction, Everett takes the time to unravel the angst and burnout lays bare the need for patience and gentleness to self needed to recover when your core has fractured in the wake of the momentum of your life when that machine isn’t entirely working anymore in a way that suits real life. All the bravado, insisted enthusiasms and the pressure to be on and up all the time even as an artist who writes melancholic music will not get you over that kind of ditch in the road. It’s obvious The Deconstruction wasn’t meant to be a coherent album as in most of the rest of Everett’s career. One does not rediscover joy and reconnect to one’s creativity in a linear fashion, rather in honoring one’s frailties and soothing the endless series of existential crises that wrack the mind once you’ve bottomed out at level that didn’t seem possible when you’re a teenager or in your twenties. Or even in your thirties. What Everett is doing now is not just writing music with a sense of compassion and kindness at their root but showing how you can express at length, even with mixed results (unless you’re completely delusional life is a lot of mixed results that many overly ego driven people choose to edit out of their telling of it), that coming out of a low period can’t be accomplished through hard work alone, perhaps not at all, but in nurturing and discovering new or neglected ways of being you and creating therefrom.
What:Chris Cohen w/Jobless and American Culture When: Sunday, 04.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Former member of Deerhoof Chris Cohen has a gift for writing songs that have a hazy, easily digestible quality that perfectly capture quiet moments in everyday life with a poetic economy and emotional sensitivity. His 2019 self-titled album sounds like it could have come from an alternative reality version of Southern California in the 1970s. Like music that would suit the later-era Philip K. Dick novels or the works of Jim Thompson. That said, the new record is like a kinder, gentler Imperial Bedroom.
Tuesday | April 23
What:Com Truise w/Jack Grace and ginla When: Tuesday, 04.23, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Touring ahead of the May 17 release of his new album Persuasion System, Seth Haley’s Com Truise is making a stop in Denver and chances are you’ll get to experience that new music live before legally getting a hold of the new record. Seems as though Haley has further refined his sound with a greater degree of the separation of sound in the layers of tone and texture. Like futuristic “library music” mixed with downtempo but brightly melodious IDM, the new Com Truise stuff is musical science fiction capturing a likely future post-climate-change-crisis and post-oligarchic domination.
Wednesday | April 24
What:Big Business w/The Lycan When: Wednesday, 04.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:The Beast You Are could simply be described as psychedelic sludge. But that has never really encompassed what Big Business is about. The duo came out of the 90s punk and underground rock scene in the Pacific Northwest. Jared Warren from Karp and Coady Willis from Murder City Devils—both bands that would be difficult to pigeonhole on their own. Both musicians also played as part of Melvins for nearly a decade, yet another band whose musical legacy and sound is so much more than “sludge rock” or whatever one might call a band that was a direct influence on grunge. The Beast You Are, though, is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.
Who:Meet the Giant w/Dead Pay Rent, Mr. Atomic When: Thursday, 01.24, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Meet the Giant, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps entirely by plan, has drawn on both 80s and 90s sounds at a time when the various aesthetics of those decades are firmly back in vogue. Downtempo, brooding post-punk, the rhythms of sample-driven composition and emotionally rich vocals make for a band that sounds instantly like something beyond having an appeal to nostalgia while drawing on a hint of that. The group spent nearly a decade honing its songcraft and chemistry as a unit and more than a small amount of the intimacy that comes out of such extended wood shedding comes through in the music like you’re getting to experience that connection that friends have who can share much with each other and be real. Many bands put on some kind of ego-driven facade fueled by a kind of borrowed rock and roll myth bravado. Meet the Giant comes about its rock and roll power honestly and with tender emotions laid bare, which is always more compelling than tough guy strutting any day of the week. Do yourself a favor and see them or at least check out their remarkable 2018 self-titled debut.
Who:DSTR, eHpH, Cutworm When: Thursday, 01.24, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: DSTR is Destroid, a project of Daniel Meyer who some may know more for his work as half of influential EBM band Haujobb. Distorted vocals, imaginative soundscaping, strong, pulsing beats and menacing, glitch-hazed atmospherics. Denver’s eHpH has been making an interesting hybrid of industrial rock and dark EBM of their own but refreshingly unlike any of their peers in the Mile High City. Cutworm is a bit of a left field choice for a bill like this if its 2018 Swallow EP is any indication with its sound being unfruitful in placing in a particular genre box. Its sounds range from modern downtempo darkwave to especially beautifully moody IDM. Live, though, Cutworm definitely brings the industrial edge into the production.
Friday | January 25, 2019
Who:Red Tack, George Cessna and Blindrunner When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Red Tack is the solo, somewhat weirdo singer-songwriter project of Ted Thacker who should be remembered widely for being in 90s alternative rock band Baldo Rex and later as a member of indiepop band Veronica. Whatever his pedigree, Thacker has remained one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and personalities. George Cessna is the son of Slim Cessna of Auto Club fame. The younger Cessna’s own work is both not too surprising considering his father’s legendary musical legacy but he is far from a carbon copy and his use of raw sound and atmosphere in his recordings and his wide ranging musical style in a broader realm of Americana and weirdo folk is noteworthy on its own merits.
Who:Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2 When: Friday, 01.25, 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Tobe Hooper passed away in 2017 leaving behind a legacy of unusual and influential films beginning, in terms of impact, with 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie so graphically violent and darkly disturbing for the time, because it felt more like a documentary than the mostly tame horror cinema up to its release. In 1986 he released the sequel as a horrifying kind of parody. Between that, the 1982 Poltergeist film, 1985’s space vampire spectacle Lifeforce and numerous other films, Hooper’s unique cinematic vision will be celebrated for years to come including this month-long or so series hosted by Theresa Mercado kicking off this night on the director’s birthday.
Who:Flaural, Panther Martin and The Eye & The Arrow When: Friday, 01.25, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The kind of line up you want to see more often in the realm of indie rock with Flaurel’s psychedelic pop, Panther Martin’s visionary lo-fi rock and The Eye & The Arrow’s re-working of Americana into something we’re not hearing ad infinitum on playlists and radio stations with a fairly vanilla stream of content.
Who:Klaus Dafoe, New Standards Men and Simulators When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Klaus Dafoe seems to be a sort of instrumental rebirth of late 90s to mid-2000s indie math rock but deconstructed to be more fractured and potentially more interesting than some of the bands mining that neo-mathcore/emo sound of late. Simulators are the kind of post-punk that carves out the overtly atmospheric quality for stark contrasts of tone and angular rhythms that somehow still flow without getting splintery and yet, despite that intentional minimalism, bursting with Bryon Parker’s raw emotional vocals.
Saturday | January 26, 2019
Who:Hippo Campus w/Now Now When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m. Where: The Ogden Why: Hippo Campus has been writing finely crafted pop songs since its early days and challenging itself to make each record reflect not just personal and creative growth, qualities you’d want in any band worth your continued attention, but an evolving approach to larger cultural narratives. The group’s 2018 album Bambi offers no pat answers or platitudes. It is a record brimming with questions instead of the instant opinion/instant expert tendency that permeates our culture from the way people interact and present themselves on social media and how one must conduct oneself in various contexts lest one be thought indecisive rather than recognizing and learning to identify nuance—not in a way to placate all sides but in order to avoid the hubris of being unaware of one’s own limitations of knowledge and comprehension. It can be enjoyed as just a solid pop album but there’s a great deal of dimensionality and content for anyone wanting to listen deeper.
Who:Space Jail, Snaggletoothe and Claudzilla When: Saturday, 01.26, 7:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: Space Jail might be described as a psychedelic synth band. Snaggletoothe as psych prog. Claudzilla as a one-person keytar rock weirdo extravaganza. All in likely the only venue in Aurora where you might see music anywhere within he realm of these bands.
Who:Soulless Maneater, Sliver, Endless Nameless, Fox Moses, Equine When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Soulless Maneater is somewhere between the best death rock band in Denver and a moodily creepy doom band. Sliver is “Diet Nirvana.” Fox Moses sounds like a gloomier neo-grunge band and all the better for that. Endless Nameless sounds like a hybrid of math rock, shoegaze and post-rock—not that those are mutually exclusive concepts. Equine is the avant-guitar and synth solo project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater guitarist Kevin Richards.
Sunday | January 27, 2019
Who:Sumac, Divide and Dissolve, Tashi Dorij When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Aaron Turner’s guitar work and songwriting in partnership with fellow musicians has helped to define some of the boundaries of the more experimental, heavy music. As the leader of Hydra Head Records he also encouraged the development of that music throughout the 90s and 2000s. As a member of Isis, Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer, to name a few projects, Turner has crafted consistently interesting material that is undeniably within the realm of metal but with an ear for abstracting sounds into noise and then back together into coherent expressions of emotion outside the realm of standard songwriting in the genre. With Sumac this may be especially so in particular the band’s 2018 album Love In Shadow where the trio takes the concept of love at its most primordial level pre-marketing device, pre-narrowing the concept down to a relatively trite, or at least limited, word casually thrown around. Also on this tour is Bhutanese guitarist Tashi Dorij whose noisescapes could be considered loosely as avant-garde but also seem to contain a kind of personal ritualistic expression. See his own 2018 album gàng lu khau chap ‘mi gera gi she an example of the sorts of music you’re in for during his set. Since Dorij and Turner have collaborated on at least one record maybe you’ll get to see some of that this night as well.
Tuesday | January 29, 2019
Who:Nadia Bolz-Weber – The Shameless Book Tour When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7:30 p.m. Where: Tattered Cover — Colfax Why: Nadia Bolz-Weber is the activist and Lutheran pastor whose 2014 memoir Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner & saint traced her personal growth from a kind of bohemian comedian to sober theology student and pastor. The book, brimming with irreverent humor and sarcasm as well as plenty of illuminating insights into human psychology, whether you’re Christian or not, struck a chord with a fairly sizable audience. In humanizing challenges many people face, Bolz-Weber made a good case for how we can embrace an expanded sense of our own best selves. In July 2018 left her pastoship of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. Now she is releasing her new book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. As a candid reexamination of “patriarchy, sex, and power” (from the Tattered Cover website), Bolz-Weber will likely further cement her reputation as something of a refreshingly maverick religious thinker and writer.
Who:Big Paleo album release w/Places Back Home, The Maykit and Quentin When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Denver-based math rock Big Paleo is releasing its, presumably, debut album. One of the opening bands, The Maykit, may not be math rock but its intricate musicianship and songwriting and Max Winne’s indisputably sincere vocal delivery will be a standout of the evening.
Wednesday | January 30, 2019
Who:Gnash w/Mallrat and Guardin When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Mallrat is Grace Shaw from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Since high school, Shaw has been writing sophisticated pop songs that bring together elements of electronic dance production, hip-hop style beats and the informal structure of modern indie rock—really an ideal synthesis and vehicle for expressing one’s ideas with nuance but a direct emotional quality. Her 2018 EP In The Sky is an interesting blend of contrasts: dusky atmospherics speckled with bright highlights, onomatopoeic cadences and vivid lyrics and soaring, saturated melodies dissolving into introspective minimalism. Headlining the show is Gnash, aka Garrett Nash, who released his debut full-length We on January 11, 2019. Nash made waves with his early breakup EPs and his far better than average beat-driven R&B.
Who:Hackedepicciotto w/DBUK When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hackedepicciotto is a multi-media, experimental music duo comprised of Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke. De Picciotto was one of the founders of the long-running electronic music festival The Love Parade in Berlin. The festival was initiated as celebration of innovative electronic music but also as a subversive kind of demonstration for peace through love and music. Hacke is the bassist for influential industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. The aforementioned couldn’t completely encompass either artist’s work, output and collaborations and it would be worthwhile to explore their work in depth. But with this project the two bring together a set of skills in composition, performance, film making and storytelling. The word “immersive” gets thrown around a lot these days but it definitely applies to a Hackedepicciotto show. It isn’t just that the sound design and visuals and songwriting are striking, they are, it’s also because before it quite became a widely articulated phenomenon, de Picciotto, in her 2013/2015 graphic novel We Are Gypsies now vividly and powerfully captured what it’s like to be noteworthy, internationally renowned artists have to uproot from one’s home and home city of decades due to gentrification. Then, as explored in further detail on the 2016 album Perserverantia and 2017’s Menetekel how the way the world economy functions now globally has not only all but dismantled the way independent artists and not-so-independent artists can live, function and thrive. The albums alone are worthwhile experiences in the listening but the live show is where you truly get to experience a deep emotional manifestation of faith and hope nearly crushed by despair at the state of things supported by a drive to seek what must be better over the horizon. There is no naivete to the work, de Picciotto and Hacke both know they can never really regain what they once had, but a reminder that one’s compulsion to pursue one’s life work can be a beacon through difficult times. The duo’s latest release is the 2018 meditation soundtrack Joy.
Who:The Pink Spiders w/Television Generation and Smile Victoria When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: The Pink Spiders are a power pop band from Nashville who had a minor hit in 2006 with “Little Razorblade” from their Ric Ocasek-produced album Teenage Graffiti. Smile Victoria sounds like it’s still wearing its Pixies and others 90s alternative music fairly freshly. But not in the neo-grunge kind of way as the trio has more atmosphere and melody than some of its peers tapping into the same era. Television Generation somehow perfectly blends grunge with power pop without sounding like Nirvana or like Cheap Trick gone metal. Is there a bit of sonic DNA in there out of Love Battery and Buzzcocks? Probably but live the band has plenty of grit and emotional darkness to keep it from ever feeling derivative.
Who:Frankie Cosmos w/Lomelda and Ashley Koett When: Thursday, 04.05, 8:30 p.m. Where: The Fox Theatre Why: Frankie Cosmos released its third album Vessel on March 30, 2018. Like it’s predecessors there’s a tender sensibility to the songwriting that recalls the lo-fi introspection of Exile In Guyville period Liz Phair and the peek-into-a-strikingly-insightful diary quality of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Sure, Kline had famous parents (Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) and was once a member of Porches. But Frankie Cosmos doesn’t sound like it’s resting on any of those laurels. Kline uses everyday details as a vehicle for exploring feelings and thoughts long hidden. The results are a refreshing frankness and intimacy even in the context of a pop song without the overpolishing and overproduction that the musical form often gets.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series 2: Brother Saturn and Vahco When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This edition of the new season of the Speakeasy Series (all in the basement of Hooked on Colfax) includes some of the most mind-calming artists of the entire programme. Brother Saturn’s dreamlike soundscapes are an entrancing synthesis of ambient and dream pop. Vahco is the solo project of Vahco Before Horses from Demoncassettecult and Gold Trash. Whereas those other two are more in the realm of noise and experimental electronic music, Vahco is more in the realm of pop music with soulful vocals.
Who:Liza Anne w/Valley Queen and Down Time When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Liza Anne’s 2018 album Fine But Dying may sound upbeat and bright and, well, like a conventionally commercial pop record I some ways. But not at all beneath the surface of the music is the fact that, according to a recent interview with Billboard, Anne just laid out her struggles with “panic disorder and depression,” articulating them in a way that could be relatable to almost anyone and hopefully at least putting to rest some of her own anxiety and shame regarding those issues. In putting the struggle in very specific personal terms without sensationalizing it or making it seem like a special taboo subject, Anne brilliantly makes it all seem like something anyone might experience without judgment. Joining Anne for this tour is Los Angeles’ Valley Queen who take a folk/acoustic music foundation to songwriting and make it warm and energetic. There’s plenty of post-neo-Laurel Canyon stuff around in the world today but Valley Queen frontwoman Natalie Carol doesn’t sound like she’s copping someone else’s vibe. Rather, her voice, sometimes quavering from the well of emotion, provides a compelling narrative and vivid imagery. One might compare her in that regard to Esmé Patterson’s own knack for creative storytelling that aims at bigger issues through the language of personal experience.
Who: Ty Segall w/Dirty Few ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/347251
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Probably anyone that’s been paying attention to modern rock music knows who Ty Segall at this point. If not, pick up pretty much any of his records (they’re all worth listening to) and you’ll get an idea of what music Segall makes but keep in mind that he is clearly a songwriter who wants to explore a wide variety of tones, moods, dynamics and songwriting styles. On his 2018 album, Freedom’s Goblin, Segall explores a more lush songwriting style without waxing into the fake soul and ersatz R&B that is being peddled a little too much of late. Covering Hot Chocolate’s 1978 hit “Every 1’s a Winner” was an interesting choice for the record but it all fits in with an album that sounds like Segall is trying to create for himself an emotionally comfortable space in which to express feelings that are out of step with some of the more hard-edged rock and roll that some may have come to expect from Segall who is too much of a creative chameleon to ever fully embody, all the better for fans of musicians who evolve whether their fans are ready for the changes or not. People have been trying to pigeonhole Denver’s Dirty Few for any manner of reasons for years as just rock and roll hooligans. And they are that but bottom line, the band actually writes solid, surprisingly thoughtful, songs that fit in the context of a rowdy live show.
Who:Kitty Crimes album release w/GVgrace When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Maria Kohler has been performing as Kitty Crimes for several years now and it seems as though many of her fans never really knew her as a talented musician and singer in various past bands including Houses, Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes sometimes seemed like a goof and a gimmick. The whole white-presenting woman doing “dirty” rap thing. But Kohler isn’t someone easily clowned and she turned an interesting project into something powerful and well-composed beyond the obvious appeal. Her new record, Crimes of the Kitty, Volume 2 has soul, the expected deft wordplay, personal insight and lush production. For fans of K’Valentine and Kari Faux.
Who:Entrancer, Cities of Earth, Staggered Hooks, Glissline When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This fundraiser for Project Worthmore, an organization dedicated to aiding the refugee community, is also a great chance to catch some of Denver’s most interesting experimental electronic projects. Entrancer’s music is grounded in the production and sensibility of 90s hip-hop and Detroit techno as well as the full breadth and depth of synthesizer music as someone who has more than a passing experience with modular synths. Cities of Earth’s Tangerine Dream-esque IDM sounds like what should be on the soundtrack to a documentary about Warp Records. At least if his 2017 EP Tangra is any indication. Staggered Hooks is probably the latest project from Dean Inman whose up-to-now-most-recent project, Dream Hike, was responsible for some of the most beautifully hypnotic deep house/ambient going. Glissline is the name Tommy Metz (formerly under his given name as well as Iuengliss) is using for his music these days. Metz has a gift for melodies that soothe the mind and his beats seem to employ the interval that releases endorphins. But whatever his music really does, fans of Aphex Twin and Clark should make an effort to see Glissline sometime if not tonight.
Who:Built to Spill w/Rituals of Mine, Black Belt Eagle Scout When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Coming out of post-punk/post-hardcore band Treepeople, Doug Martsch put together a band that could synthesize his musical interests and a path of sonic curiosity that wouldn’t fully congeal in underground culture in quite the same way until the late 90s/early 2000s. He cited Caustic Resin as an influence and brought that band’s brilliant guitar player into the new band, Built to Spill, on bass as well as Ralf Youtz on drums. The group’s 1993 debut album Ultimate Alternative Wavers was an oblique thumbing of the nose at how their music culture had been co-opted and marketed as product rather than a culture parallel to the mainstream. The music sounded like a blend of Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr (a band clearly influenced by Young) and underground Pacific Northwest rock. But inside all of that, Martsch had found a way to bring in extended guitar jams that were emotionally charged and expressive rather than purely self-indulgent and wanky. The development of that sound and dynamic perhaps reached its apex on Built To Spill’s 1997 masterpiece, Perfect From Now On and the 1999 follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret. Along with the visionary indie pop of the Elephant 6 collective, the bands on Merge Records, K and Kill Rock Stars, and unlikely “alternative rock” star bands post-alternative collapse like Pavement, Built To Spill helped to shape indie rock in the first decade of the 2000s by offering yet another alternative vision to what was being pumped by large commercial outlets for music.
Seeing Built To Spill in 2018 is a bit like a glimpse back to a time when it was more easily possible to have a viable career in music without having to get commercially huge or over compromise or have to fit in with a trendy subgenre of the moment and ride that wave. Sure, BTS has been on Warner Brothers since Perfect From Now On but if they’re being encouraged to get more commercial you sure can’t tell from even its most recent record, 2015’s Untethered Moon. If the group’s showing at Treefort Music Fest 2018 is any indication, the trio is still capable of weaving its gritty, hypnotic magic today. And its sonic DNA is in music of most modern indie rock bands whether those bands know it or not.
Friday | April 6, 2018
What:Immediate Music Festival When: Friday, 04.06, 7 p.m. Where: Metropolitan State University of Denver Why: The Immediate Music Festival celebrates collaborative improvisation. Throughout the day (for more information click here) there will be workshops on group improvisation, soundpainting, noteworthy avant-garde musician Pauline Oliveros’ presentation Deep Listening. That night, at the King Center, there will be a concert from the avant-garde-improv band Sone which includes some of the local luminaries of that world with Jane Rigler, Janet Feder, Evan Mazunik, Gil Selinger and Mark Harris as well as a performance from Grammy-nominated jazz drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson.
Who:Steve Gordon Art Show When: Friday, 04.06, 6-9 p.m. Where: Vertigo Gallery 960 Santa Fe Why: Master sculptor, painter and drawing artist Steve Gordon is having what may be one of his last art shows into the foreseeable future. Gordon is also a significant artist in Denver’s experimental music world mostly notably with improvisational composition band Animal / object, which often includes Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano.
Who:Doug Spencer: Cave Lovers When: Friday, 04.06, 6-11 p.m. Where: Dateline Gallery 3004 Larimer St. Why: This is the latest art show from painter Doug Spencer whose creative use of texture and lighting has made his work desired by connoisseurs of the artform wherein Spencer combines 2D design with 3D, sculptural/diorama elements to create truly unique works. Some may know Spencer as the imaginative guitarist in notable Denver and Fort Collins rock bands Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Monofog and Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth.
Who:Nocturnal Presents: Exos w/Talien and Alex Whittier When: Friday, 04.06, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. Where:TBA Why: Nocturnal is a long-running event that puts together deep house/experimental electronic dance events akin to a classic rave. So there will be long sets with the artists listed above going from late night until the early morning.
Who:Slugger, Henry and the Kissingers, Galleries, Pelvis Presley When: Friday, 04.06, 9 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Cafe Why: After too many bands embraced the less interesting aspects of 60s and 70s rock a little too much a group of bands were bound to come along that embraced the more interesting aspects of that music including original songwriting that isn’t so obviously beholden to an earlier band. This is a show that includes a handful of those groups on the local level including Slugger, the band fronted by former Silver Tone songwriter/guitarist Gabriel Albelo.
Saturday | April 7, 2018
Who:Cut Chemist w/El Dusty and Chris Karns (Pretty Lights Live Band) When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Cut Chemist is perhaps best known for his long term stint as a DJ/turntablist in Jurassic 5 and his involvement in the early era of Ozomatli. His tasteful breaks and ear for unusual and evocative samples brought a an uncommon elegance and depth to Jurassic 5’s beats. But the call to do something outside the context of the influential hip-hop group drew Cut Chemist to a solo career in 2004. His 2006 debut album under his own name was an eclectic and borderline world music and downtempo record called The Audience’s Listening. Since then the turntablist has served as a producer on numerous records, performed live DJ sets including opening for Shakira on her 2007 tour, collaborated with DJ Shadow and, in 2017, started doing a bi-weekly radio show, A Stable Sound, on dublab / 99.1 FM KZUT. In March 2018, Cut Chemist released his second solo album, Die Cut. The record continues Cut Chemist’s masterful treatment of samples into songs with a Dilla-esque use of motes of white noise in the mix, samples processed to sound like you’re getting intermittent transmissions of old radio programs, vintage television shows and commercials and ambient IDM glitch-hop.
Who:Nina Storey w/Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle When: Saturday, 04.07, 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Nina Storey spent years cultivating her sound, songwriting and live show in Denver before relocating to Los Angeles in the 2000s. If you caught Storey in the 90s you probably got to see a singer whose voice was perfectly suited to the bluesy rock music she was writing then. Also, that her powerful voice seemed unlikely coming from someone with such a relatively small frame. Since then (and likely even at that time), Storey has explored the range of her voice and where it fit in and discovered it was well-suited to jazz and R&B as well. On her most recent full-length album, 2013’s Think Twice, Storey blended all her musical impulses into well-crafted modern pop songs. These days Storey still comes through Denver and on this date she is joined by local luminaries in the Denver blues world, Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle.
Who:Suss Law, Rotstrotter, Sentry Dogs, Berated and Florida Man When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar / Carioca Café Why: Portland, Oregon’s Suss Law could be where power violence, noise and grindcore meet. Its recently released seven inch is a chaotic and relentless assault on the senses with few concessions to accessibility. If you go to this show you can also catch local grind/hardcore luminaries like Rotstrotter and Sentry Dogs. And given the set times of most of these groups, who don’t waste our time by dragging things out, the show may be over by midnight even with five bands.
Monday | April 9, 2018
Who:Acid Mothers Temple w/Yoo Doo Right and Emerald Siam When: Monday, 04.09, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Acid Mothers Temple in its Melting Paraiso U.F.O. incarnation is now on the Electric Dream Ecstasy Tour. The long-running Japanese psychedelic rock band manages to continuously bring a unique show every tour because its roots can be traced back mainly back to fairly experimental western music whether rock or avant-garde (i.e. Can, Karlheinz Stockhausen and King Crimson) but members of the band past and present have been instrumental, literally and figuratively, in comprising and shaping underground music and noise in Japan. The composition of the band’s songs is influenced more by concept than technique. It is bombastic and wild and simultaneously as gorgeous and as mysterious as an other-dimensional spirit incarnate. A list of the band members and their official role and their real title clues you into the fact that leader Kawabata Makoto has a sense of humor to match his imagination and technical prowess as a musician.
Kawabata Makoto : guitar, voice, synth, voice, speed guru
Higashi Hiroshi : synthesizer, harp, noodle god
Jyonson Tsu : vocal, guitar, bouzouki, electronics, midnight whistler
Satoshima Nani : drums, another dimension
Wolf : bass, space & time
Prepare to be taken to otherworldly emotional spaces during the show if you surrender to the music some. Also on the bill is Denver’s Emerald Siam which has become refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole. Ever since singer/guitarist Kurt Ottaway and the rest of the band has seemingly tapped deeper into a creative muse, the songs have gotten darker yet more open and spacious. Expect a full-length release in 2018.
Who: Primitive Man, Spectral Voice, Prison Glue and Cadaver Dog When: Monday, 04.09, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Primitive Man is celebrating its return from a long tour with this show at Syntax with like-minded death/doom/grind band Spectra Voice. Joining both bands will be hardcore band Cadaver Dog as well as noise/performance artist Prison Glue.
Tuesday | April 10, 2018
Who:Luna w/Flaural When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Luna split for around ten years after its 2005 tour. The disappointment and despair and reality of the music industry at that time is documented in the 2006 film Tell Me Do You Miss Me. If you got to see Luna on that until now final tour, those feelings radiated from singer/guitarist Dean Wareham’s eyes when he looked out into the crowd. And not just because the late-night-hours lush pop that has been Luna’s hallmark ever since Wareham left influential dream pop band Galaxie 500 (which also never got its due during its time together or much since except by aficionados of deeply evocative, melancholy and ethereal gorgeous guitar rock). Wareham genuinely seemed like he was looking out on the last days of his career with plenty of life left to lead knowing he’d created some great music that would only be appreciated in the past tense. You couldn’t help but feel for him unless you’re one of those people for whom music is merely entertainment made not by humans but by functionaries of some kind of Distraction Industrial Complex.
But Wareham didn’t give up. He wrote music with then bandmate now wife Britta Phillips as well as noteworthy solo albums. He also wrote one of the best and most well-written and thoughtful rock autobiographies of all time with 2008’s Black Postcards. The book reads like all the music Wareham has been a part of making, warm and not detached but able to examine one’s feelings and intimate thoughts and express them in a way that is immediate relatable with a passionate yet gentle spirit even when the music is in moments of high feeling. Luna reconvened in 2015 and in 2017 released an album of interesting and not predictable covers called A Sentimental Education as well as an EP of originals, A Place of Greater Safety. That latter being some of the best music Luna has yet released so this would be a tour on which to catch one of the great rock bands of the last 27 years.
Who:Animal / object live on KGNU Radio Kabaret: Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon, George Figgs and Karen Sheridan When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7-8 p.m. Where: Streaming on KGNU.org and broadcast on radio Why: Animal / object is Denver’s premiere avant-garde acoustic instrument band. For the last several years the group around the current core of Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon has had a prolific and varied recorded output captured with various other noteworthy collaborators including the likes of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, Gordon Pryor, Paul Mimlitsch and for this show, Karen Sheridan formerly of all-female deathrock band 1980s Denver band Your Funeral, experimental rock band Corpses as Bedmates and R.O.C., a kind of deconstructionist pop band that incorporates elements of electronic industrial music and sampling. Over the weekend Sheridan did vocals for an incantation at Steven Gordon’s art show at Vertigo Gallery. So tune in to KGNU for this special performance from one of Denver’s great experimental bands.
Who:Lo Moon w/Kraus When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lo Moon spent a great deal of time developing and percolating its sound and then waiting for the right opportunity and format to even let out its September 2016 single “Loveless.” A little under a year and a half later, the full-length self-titled album comes out on on Sony. The single came out at a time when many of the dream pop and neo-shoegaze bands were not drawing on the same inspirations as Lo Moon so it seemed especially sophisticated and sonically and emotionally deep by comparison. The full-length album including “Loveless” doesn’t capitalize on the promise of the single so much as showcase a sound the band had cultivated and perfected in this first stage of its development as a band. The record didn’t exactly blow the minds of critics but it was interesting to see a band not succumb to the pressure of putting out its music as quickly as possible, given the avenues in which to do so, before developing that music to the point it needed to be and without fully submitting to the de-mystifying tendency of the social media game most bands use to garner any excitement for its new material these days. Lo Moon distinguished itself playing larger venues when it toured with Ride in 2017 and getting to see a band with this large a sound on the small stage now would be a great time to see a group that may not be regularly playing such small clubs in the future.
Who:Timber Timbre w/Thor & Friends When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Timber Timbre has been described as psychedelic folk. But if that’s the case then its 2017 album, Sincerely, Future Pollution is more brooding and darker than that designation would suggest. More akin to Midlake’s artistically ambitious compositions or those of Six Organs of Admittance than Vetiver and early Animal Collective. Thor & Friends is a band lead by Thor Harris who some may know from his stints in Shearwater, Swans and Bill Callahan. Though largely known for his skills with a broad spectrum of percussion instruments, Harris is a multifaceted artist and multi-instrumentalist and this band displays that especially well with creative use of marimba prominent in the mix of percussion heavy, yet gently beautiful and atmospheric music.
Wednesday | April 11, 2018
Who:Wake, Vermin Womb, Call of the Void and Full Bore When: Wednesday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Wake is a deathgrind band from Calgary, Canada. Currently on tour in support of its towering, brutal 2018 album Misery Rites, Wake is joined on this Denver date by like-minded locals. Vermin Womb is a band that includes Ethan McCarthy from Primitive Man as well as former Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire drummer J.P. Damron. Call of the Void took the blunt, abrupt, savage dynamic of deathgrind to another level of creative sonic violence.