Best Shows in Denver August 2021

Princess Dewclaw (here performing at Wax Trax, April 2021) performs at The UMS on August 28

With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.

King Crimson, photo by Dean Stocking

Monday | August 2, 2021
What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio
When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.

Friday | August 6, 2021
What:
NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit!
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.

Saturday | August 7, 2021
What: Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez
When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors)
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.

Small Black, photo by Caroline Mathis

Tuesday | August 10, 2021
What: Small Black and Korine
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.

Tuesday | August 10
What: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ
When: (6 p.m. doors)
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.

Oko Tygra at Boulder Theater in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire
Where: HQ
Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.

Thursday | August 12, 2021
What:
Radkey
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.

Oblio Duo in 2006, Steven Lee Lawson on right, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 19, 2021
What: Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.

Tuesday | August 24, 2021CANCELLED
What: The Residents
When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors)
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.

Gila Teen at Lion’s Lair in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29
What: Glasss Records Stage at the UMS
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.

Best Shows in Denver 04/25/19 – 05/01/19

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Interpol headlines Red Rocks on May 1.image courtesy Matador Records website

Thursday | April 25

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Starjammer, photo courtesy Squidds Madden

Who: Starjammer featuring Kuf Knotz
When: Thursday, 04.25, 4 p.m. – ?
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer, the avant-garde dub reggae one-man/device band, will be playing two sets tonight in phases like a rocket launch. The Launch Pad Prep runs from 4-7 and the Late Night Lift Off starts at 9 and runs until the musical equivalent of escape velocity is reached. Or at least until you have to leave whether you want to or not.

Who: Bowshock and El Tigr3
When: Thursday, 04.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records includes Bowshock, the experimental improv psych jazz reggae band.

Who: Stop Motion EP release w/Ramakhandra, Fresh Fruit!
When: Thursday, 04.25, 7
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | April 26

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The Yawpers circa 2018, photo by Michael Passman

Who: The Yawpers release of Human Question w/In the Whale and Fast Eddie
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Yawpers have been writing solid, rough around the edges, southern fried punk rock and roll for years. While earlier releases honestly cataloged singer Nate Cook’s headlong dive into desperation and self-destruction, Human Question, with the image of an immolating figure walking out of the fields into the forest on the cover, is more introspective and taking into consideration a subject as the title suggests—what is the purpose and significance of living in the world as a creature fully capable of being self-aware, reflective and capable of extremes of behavior and of consciously choosing a path other than the most immediate and obvious. The record is a collection of rockers but, especially with the single “Carry Me,” The Yawpers prove that they are capable of more than rocking and that even at the root of that is a raw and nuanced cauldron of emotion and now more an ability to write from a place beyond primal urges with a finely tuned discernment as articulated with fiery displays of musical and poetic catharsis.

Who: Superorganism w/Simpson
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Originating in London, Superorganism is an international, multi-ethnic indie pop band whose members met through various internet channels and mutual friends. Its sound might be described as electronic music pitched to sound like something made using unorthodox, highly tactile instruments. In some ways the group’s 2018 self-titled debut is reminiscent of Kala-period M.I.A. with its fusion of styles and sounds and strong visual element to its performances.

What: PRF BBQ Day 1
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: This is a three day music festival featuring some of the better Denver underground bands. On this night you can catch Dead Characters, New Standards Men, Modern Goon and Clutch Plague.

Who: Lotus
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Certainly Lotus’ fan base is largely comprised of those with a love of all things jam band. And Lotus’ free flowing groove and sprawling improvisations fit in that pocket as well. But there’s something more experimental to the band’s music slightly beneath the surface. Its 2018 album Frames Per Second showcases this well with unusual jazz structures and dynamics, moody bass lines, vocal processing, playful and colorful synth work. Like the inevitable musical offspring of Steely Dan and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lotus sounds like a band with chops playing fairly straightforward yet intricate grooves but there is a layer of subversiveness to keep it interesting beyond technical flourishes.

Who: Murs w/DJ Eps, Locksmith, Cojo and AstroGrizz
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Who: Cactus Blossoms w/Jack Klatt
When: Friday, 04.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Outrun presents Final Wave
When: Friday, 04.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hyperspace Arcade

Saturday | April 27

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Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lotus w/Ghostland Observatory, Jade Cicada and Magic Beans
When: Saturday, 04.27, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: If Lotus wasn’t responsible for this line-up directly, someone somewhere put together a great bill of bands who share a similar sensibility in adventurous electronic music suited to a large stage format.
What: DMX w/DJ Chonz
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Weird Touch
When: Saturday, 04.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s one of many hip DJ nights probably more focused on indie releases than average that we’re fortunate to have in Denver.

What: The North Ensemble
When: Saturday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Trident
Why: An avant-garde improvisational show in the back room/outdoors area in the back of Trident. Boulder likes to act like it’s weird but stuff like this is the rare occasion when it is in a productive way.

What: PRF BBQ Day 2
When: Saturday, 04.27, 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Simulators will rip your face off with their angular noise rock and when Moon Pussy finishes the process with its cybernetic psychedelic post-punk you will be glad you went unless you’re into safe, boring music. The other bands are probably worth it too. Schedule below.

430 – 500 – Simulators
515 – 545 – The Oxford Coma
600 – 630 – Moon Pussy
645 – 715 – Laurium
Food break
815 – 845 – Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends
9 – 930 – Hooper
945 – 1015 Sewingneedle
1030 – Future Scars

Sunday | April 28

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La Dispute, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: La Dispute w/Gouge Away and Slow Mass
When: Sunday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe it’s because Jordan Dreyer was a writer before ever making music. Maybe it’s because La Dispute’s take on post-hardcore and emo isn’t tied to the usual sounds and progressions. Sure you can hear bits of the influence of At The Drive-In and Refused but on another level the band’s music sounds like a heavier Bright Eyes or even Slint—that sense of desolation and desperation. Also on this bill/tour are two other bands within the realm of punk that are a bit different yet share some of the same sensibilities with Gouge Away, a band that combines an atmospheric heaviness with eruptive energy and an unexpectedly forceful frontperson in Christina Michelle. Slow Mass is one of the better bands out there that has fused emotionally taut math rock with fluid post-hardcore.

What: Shibui Denver #2 – Victoria Lundy and Blank Human
When: Sunday, 04.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver avant-garde veteran Victoria Lundy may play some of her classical material on Theremin or some of her spookier faire with the same as well as synth. Blank Human is a drone/ambient project from Dan Coleman also of Luxury Hearse.

What: PRF BBQ Day 3
When: Sunday, 04.28, 4 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Final evening of PRF BBQ including a performance from glam/psych post-punk stars Teacup Gorilla.

400 – 430 – Flowlines
445 – 515 – 50 Miles of Elbow Room
530 – 600 – Little Beards
615 – 645 – Falsetto Boy
Food break
745 -815 – Church Van
830 – 900 – Teacup Gorilla
915 – 945 – Purple Honey
1000 – The Gary

What: Sabroso Taco Fest: The Offspring, Bad Religion, The Vandals, Black Flag, Strung Out, Dwarves
When: Sunday, 04.28, 12 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Kind of a craft beer and taco event with some of the more well-known names in punk. One of the few chances to see Greg Ginn perform with the new version of Black Flag. No matter one’s opinion on that matter, Ginn is always startlingly impressive with the material.

Monday | April 29

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Beach Fossils, photo by Evan Tetreault

Who: Beach Fossils w/George Clanton
When: Monday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Beach Fossils is from Brooklyn but capture a more West Coast breeziness in its melancholic surf pop confections. Unlike artists mining similar territory, Beach Fossils’ songwriting in its emotional colorings. That Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell contributed to the group’s 2017 album Somersault gives the direction Beach Fossils have been going some cachet by lending some of her low key yet evocatively powerful vocals to the record. George Clanton brings his lush, IDM-esque, deeply atmospheric electronic pop along for this leg of the tour as well.

Tuesday | April 30

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Bayonne, photo by Jackie Lee Young

Who: Bayonne and Palm Daze
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Roger Sellers as Bayonne uses minimalist layers of texture-as-percussion and simple melodies to craft atmospheric pop that recalls late 2000s chillwave and its capacity to seemingly dispel anxiety and angst. His latest record, 2019’s Drastic Measures, should be on anyone’s short list for summer listening and to save for the winter months when it seems like warmer times are a distant memory.

What: Ambigere (WA), Causer, Paranoid Preacher and Emotional Calcification
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: The noise show for the week.

What: Sage Francis & B. Dolan: Epic Beard Men and Vockah Redu and Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Sage Francis and B. Dolan, two giants alternative hip-hop and superb lyricists, are touring in their collaborative alternate personas Epic Beard Men. The masterful phrasing won’t be in short supply tonight with Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp and its jazz and beats rooted offerings.

What: Santigold w/Naeem 
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium

What: The 1975, Pale Waves and No Rome — canceled
When: Tuesday, 04.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

Wednesday | May 1

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Lil Pump, photo by Gabe Shaddow

Who: Interpol w/Car Seat Headrest, Japanese Breakfast and Sunflower Bean
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Interpol could just tour on the strength of its fan base and pick some weird music industry management openers (and maybe that is part of this booking) but instead the post-punk stars are having three of the best indie rock bands opening the show. Between Car Seat Headrest’s lo-fi, emotionally raw math rock, Sunflower Bean’s driving, brooding post-punk and Japanese Breakfast’s highly imaginative and powerful guitar rock soundscaping the opening sets alone are worth the price of admission but then you get to see Interpol whose back catalog has held up better than that of many of its peers from the late 90s and early 2000s.

What: Lil Pump w/Lil Skies
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lil Pump turned 18 last August so expecting wisdom and thoughtfulness even on his 2019 album Haverd Dropout might be a bit much. He’s got a long way to go before his mumble trap is in the same league as Migos or his raps and performance in the same realm as Vince Staples or anyone in the A$AP crew or Odd Future. But it’s obvious he’s borrowed a lot from all of them. Nevertheless, Lil Pump is likeable enough despite his deficits and as he grows as an artist and as a human hopefully he’ll grow in more interesting and original directions so that the implicit faith that collaborators like Kanye West, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz put in his sophomore album. It’s clear Pump is a weirdo so with any luck he’ll embrace that side of himself and give us a third album on which he truly lets his freak flag fly.

What: Weird Wednesday: Orbiting Olympia, Elk Minister, Tears to Light
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Weird Wednesday this month features Orbiting Olympia which is a grand alchemy of Eve Orenstein’s opera training and Sean Faling’s mastery of synthesizers both analog and otherwise. Elk Minister is a multi-instrumentalist, self-styled mystic and songwriter who has been sitting on his material for years. His visual presentation on his social media accounts look like he’s come back from some junkyard holy site with the appropriate twenty-third century raiment.

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Lizzo, photo by Luke Gilford

What: Lizzo w/Tayla Parx
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The show is sold out but if you can get in you can catch rising hip-hop/pop star Lizzo before she starts playing much larger venues (like her October date in Denver at the Fillmore) from now on. Her 2019 album Cuz I Love You has the kind of frisson that sounds, at times and certainly the “Juice” single, like something that might have come out of a late 70s-period Studio 54 playlist. Except not dated. And across the record Lizzo shows off her chops as a vocalist of great emotional power and a songwriter with a keen ear for dynamics. Fans of Prince are well-advised to give Lizzo’s new album a deep listen because it’s worth it.

What: Ben Kweller w/Mainman and Modern Love Child
When: Wednesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake