Best Shows in Denver 1/16/20 – 1/22/20

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Heilung performs January 17 at Ogden Theatre, photo by Ruben Terlouw

Thursday | January 16

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Muscle Beach, Church Fire, Vexing and Grief Ritual
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: With the exception of Church Fire whose own politically-charged, emotionally cathartic, noisy synth pop, this is basically a showcase for some of the best Denver bands who bridge the gap between experimental metal, hardcore and noise punk. Muscle Beach released its riveting new album Charms in 2019 and Vexing just let loose with its album Cradle.

What: Cursive w/Cloud Nothings and Criteria
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Cereza w/Indica Cinema and Dog Basketball
When: Thursday, 1.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Chromadrift w/Felix Fast4ward, MYTHirst and Furbie Cakes
When: Thursday, 1.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

What: Eli N-H & L Heron
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Necromantic (Goth, post-punk, darkwave, industrial DJ night)
When: Thursday, 1.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Shag Lounge

Friday | January 17

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The Still Tide, photo by Jay Wescott

What: Heilung
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Many bands in the past two or three decades claim to hearken back in their music to early northern European culture. Heilung took the concept a step or two further by basing their music on texts and runes from the Germanic people of the Viking era and longer ago infused with pan-ancient world cultures. The band members look like members of a Scandinavian mystery cult with elaborate outfits, some wearing horned head gear, performing with recreations of traditional instruments from various ancient cultures, guttural vocals reminiscent of Tuvan throat singing. It is a spectacle that is a ritualistic performance of music and poetry designed to transport you to the mindset of earlier humanity getting in touch with its subconscious mind communally.

What: The Still Tide Between Skies album release, Down Time and Heavy Diamond Ring
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Still Tide has been making waves in Denver and beyond for several years at this point with its poignantly expressive dream pop soundscapes. Its sounds are expansive yet are imbued with an intimate sensibility as though Anna Morsett is singing from the past toward the future. It takes you out of a mundane mindset and transports you to a realm where you can feel all the pressures, angst and demands of everyday life but it seems in context of a bigger picture hidden from your thinking most of the time. At least that’s the vibe of the band’s new record Between Skies. The lush and well-balanced soundscapes crafted by Morsett, Jake Miller, Joe Richmond and Nate Meese render incredibly accessible an album of meaningful songs about personal struggle and striving to make sense of the seemingly endless run of reverses and confusing experiences with your heart intact.

What: Caustic Soda EP release w/Sinister Pig and Princess Dewclaw
When: Friday, 1.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Caustic Soda is a noise punk band from Boulder whose new EP Stud Count will be available at this show. As the title suggests it’s a pointed critique of the all the destructive and regressive ideas that have seemed to issue forth prominently in the wake of Donald Trump announcing his candidacy for president: the misogyny, the bizarre anti-science right, open racism—all the stuff nascent fascism spews into the world.

What: The Amphibious Man, Apollo Shortwave and Pelvis Presley (EP release)
When: Friday, 1.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Kiltro w/Oxeye Daisy and Julian Brier
When: Friday, 1.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: On the One: DJ Johnra (John Eggert) and DJ Mike Moses
When: Friday, 1.17, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Saturday | January 18

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Lazarus Horse, photo by Andy Denson

What: Lazarus Horse Oh, The Guilt album release w/Disinherited and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Eddie Durkin was once a member of the promising and powerful experimental guitar pop band Sparkler Bombs but for various reasons had to take a break from playing in bands and playing shows. But his time away allowed him to incubate and hone his talent further and his latest project Lazarus Horse has been performing now and then with a set of songs that are rough enough around the edges to be fresh and interesting but refined in the execution of dynamics to not be confused for an off-the-cuff band still not in possession of a sense of intentionality. The group’s new album Oh, The Guilt will be an earworm for fans of Codeine, Red House Painters, Versus and Slint. The songs have a simple construction but because of that they are capable of a great emotional range as the layers of sound interact with a fluidity that the sometimes splintery tones might suggest otherwise. The vulnerability on display is disarming, honest and inviting. Given the arc of the songs it’s part eulogy for a time in Denver Durkin experienced while playing DIY spaces in the late 2000s and early 2010s and a map for navigating the new reality in the Mile High City and America in general, one that seems to have put so much up in the air with no sense of confidence in social stability. It’s a record showing bravery and self-awareness in the face of massive uncertainty and possible civilizational collapse.

What: Punk Against Trump: Cheap Perfume, Allout Helter, Over Time, Filthy Hearts, Altar Girls (debut)
When: Saturday, 1.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Maybe in the years ahead Trump and everything he willfully and unintentionally encouraged among the forces of cultural and political reaction will be in the rearview and great punk bands won’t have to have fundraiser for groups that are keeping essential services and a compassionate mission alive but for now Punk Against Trump remains a proud tradition in Denver.

What: Bleakheart w/Many Blessings, Its Just Bugs and Human Tide
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax

What: LUCY, H Lite, French Kettle Station and Horse Girl
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Your Smith w/Chelsea Jade
When: Saturday, 1.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

What: Ladies Night (band) and Lifers
When: Saturday, 1.18, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge

Sunday | January 19

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Drune, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drune (album release), New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Sunday, 1.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Drune’s debut album SEER is three extended tracks with Roman numerals as the title. Doing so almost invites you to have no preconceptions about what you might be in for with the listening even if you’ve heard the band is a doom band or “heavy.” And it is but there is an elegance to Drune’s composition that has as much in common with bands like Black Mountain who push the aesthetic into unconventional sonic territory as it does with any doom band. James Cook’s soaring vocals and the modulated rhythms syncing with guitar riffs that are as textural and moody as brutal. It’s a sonically expansive record that rewards your attention. Drune doesn’t drone on the same idea ad infinitum, its evolution through a song suggests a narrative structure that pulls you in for the long haul.

Tuesday | January 21

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GZA, photo courtesy GZA management

What: GZA 25th Anniversary of Liquid Swords w/Righteous Revolution (feat. 1-natVson-1), D-Stylz & High Key (Affliction Music), DJ Notch, Killah Priest
When: Tuesday, 1.21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: GZA’s 1995 album Liquid Swords is of course a classic of 90s hip-hop fusing a more traditional genre aesthetic with genre-bending innovations in the use of atmospheric elements in the production to give the whole record an otherworldly quality worthy of its transcendental lyrics. While it might be difficult to prove this record sounds like one of the primary influences on late-90s alternative hip-hop like artists on the Anticon, Mush and Rhymesayers imprints and on experimental electronic music and bands as unusual and adventurous as Black Moth Super Rainbow and CocoRosie. Whatever its exact impact and legacy, Liquid Swords gets into your head and still manages to surprise with the sheer creativity in its use of sound and GZA’s masterful wordplay like a thinking person’s futuristic crime drama manga.

Best Shows in Denver 06/20/19 – 06/26/19

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Mitski performs at Red Rocks with Death Cab for Cutie on Tuesday, June 25, photo by Bao Ngo

Thursday | June 20

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Future Punx, photo courtesy the artist

What: Glasss Presents the Final Speakeasy Series Season 3: Adam Selene, Abeasity Jones and MYTHirst
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final edition of the Speak Easy Series not just Season 3 but overall. Each date has been a well-curated showcase of Denver’s underground experimental music underground with a reach covering a lot of that territory in a way few if any other events have in recent years. Tonight’s show includes some of the local scene’s hip-hop and production stars as named above.

What: SCAC with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Thursday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is the long-running, legendary Americana post-punk band with a theatrical flair and costumes to enhance a strong visual presence on stage. Joining them tonight is Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Also favoring matching outfits in the vein of influential Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters, the group is fronted and lead by one of rock’s great songwriters and guitarists. Kid Congo Powers brought great finesse, inventiveness and a keen ear for melody and dynamics to groups like Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

What: Mystery Lights w/Future Punx and Slynger
When: Thursday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mystery Lights is an odd and fascinating mix of retro synth bands and proto-punk. Give its new record Too Much Tension! a listen. Like early Zen Guerilla but weirder. Future Punx is also on tour from Brooklyn with its synth funk punk akin to Les Savy Fav and The Epoxies but with more synth than the former and less pop punk than the latter. Its own 2019 album The World Is A Mess (which includes an almost brooding cover of “The World’s A Mess (It’s In My Kiss)” by X) sure does sound like some people from the future looking back on the Twentieth Century New Wave and punk era the way some indie rockers have looked back on Laurel Canyon, classic rock and 80s glam rock for inspiration and cherry picked sounds to assemble in idiosyncratic fashion.

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Hembree, photo by Stephen Shireman

What: Bloxx, Hembree and Warbly Jets
When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Bloxx is a four piece from London whose sound makes one think its members evolved out of the music that defined its early youth and rediscovered 90s alternative rock and mulched it all in favor of a charmingly melodic, fuzzy emo-esque songwriting style reminiscent of newer bands like Culture Abuse. Kansas City’s Hembree rides that line between post-punk and synth pop well and its 2019 album House On Fire is filled with darkly luminous yet urgent dance songs.

Friday | June 21

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Nick Murphy, photo by Willy Lukatis

What: Gasoline Lollipops., Dust Heart and Grayson County Burn Ban
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Andy Thomas has been a fixture of Denver music for close to two decades as a member of bands like Ghost Buffalo, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer, Only Thunder and, more recently, Lost Walks. Around a decade ago he started releasing music under his own name and as Andy Thomas Dust Heart and exploring different facets of his own songwriting. He is now releasing music as simply Dust Heart and tonight he releases his single “Plastic Walls” and “The Last Gap.” Thomas’ command of the musical vocabulary of Americana and punk has long been established. With the new material the songwriter delves further into something more akin to gritty power pop with charged guitar riffs and his always emotionally resonant vocal delivery. He’ll be performing the Punk Is Dad benefit tonight at the Oriental Theater with other like-minded local acts. Look for our interview with Thomas coming soon.

What: Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker w/Beacon
When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nick Murphy announced in 2016 that he would drop his long-running stage name of Chet Faker with the release of his next album, that being 2019’s Run Fast Sleep Naked. The Australian singer and songwriter’s mixture of R&B and downtempo electronic pop struck a chord in the first half decade of his career so far and his new album is the result of some wanderlust and making the music and putting together ideas as he went along. The album is a mixed bag but sometimes such material translates better live than as a loose concept album and you can see for yourself tonight as Murphy transforms the Ogden into a more intimate environment in which his songs can shine in the interpretation of the recorded music.

Saturday | June 22

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Oh, Rose at Treefort Music Fest, photo courtesy the artist

What: Yeasayer w/Oh, Rose
When: Saturday, 06.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington has been making C86-esque pop songs for around half a decade and garnering some buzz for its emotionally warm and ebullient yet introspective songwriting. Fans of Shop Assistants and perhaps Black Tambourine will find much to like about Oh, Rose in general but especially it’s forthcoming album While My Father Sleeps due out on August 23, 2019 on Park The Van Records. The group is opening for Yeasayer whose genre bending sound makes psychedelic rock, non-Western rhythms and prog work well together by not bothering to recognize a boundary between all of that. The result is what might be considered “indie funk” but with a more imaginative live presentation of the music than those terms together might suggest.

What: Alphabeat Soup #41: Rico Eva (Riq Squavs), MYTHirst, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes and Love Cosmic Love
When: Saturday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: With the demise of Deer Pile, Alphabeat Soup, the periodic showcase of some of Denver’s most forward-thinking electronic music producers, is finding a new home at Thought//Forms.

What: TRVE DadFest
When: Saturday, 06.22, 1 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: TRVE Brewing and Dad Fest combined forces for this event to bring a day and night of stars of extreme, doom and experimental (and combinations thereof) metal from Denver and beyond. But as per usual for DadFest, there will music well outside that like ethereal soundscaper Midwife, Denver noise legends Page 27 and beat-driven noise auteur Data Rainbow. Our pick for the later heavy stuff if one must choose? BIG|BRAVE’s 2019 album A Gaze Among Them is a towering locomotive of driving beats that transcends narrow concepts of doom, noise and industrial. But, really, everything on the bill is worth your time—not something one can say about every festival, tastes differing. The event happens at two venues, schedule listed below.

Hi-Dive Schedule (upstairs and downstairs as indicated)
Up: Dreadnought 7:50-8:10
Down: Noctambulist 8:15-8:35
Up: In the Company of Serpents 8:40-9:00
Down: Vale 9:05-9:25
Up: Midwife 9:30-9:50
Down: Of Feather and Bone 9:55-10:15
Up: BIG|BRAVE 10:20-10:50
Up: Wake 11:05-11:25
Up: Vanum 11:40 – finis

Mutiny Schedule
Lost Relics 2:00-2:20
New Standards Men 2:35-2:55
Chair of Torture 3:10-3:30
A Light Among Many 3:45-4:05
Livid 4:20-4:40
Whilt 4:55-5:05
909 5:20-5:40
Flesh Buzzard 5:55-6:05
Heathen Burial 6:20-6:40
Data Rainbow 6:55-7:05
Page 27 7:20-7:40

Sunday | June 23

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Howard Jones circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Vulture Wake w/Joy Subtraction and State Drugs
When: Sunday, 06.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A Vulture Wake is a sort of melodic punk super group including Chad Price of ALL and Drag the River) and members of Lagwagon and Real McKenzies. But you won’t be getting some odd pop punk or melodic hardcore redo, it’s songwriting goes a bit beyond all of that with technical proficiency used with imaginative and evocative guitar riffs. Joy Subtraction doesn’t play much these days but its punk is borderline post-punk and its sharp take on social and political issues lacks is way more clever and insightful than that of at least two or three other bands. But not just any two or three other bands.

What: Howard Jones w/Men Without Hats and All Hail the Silence
When: Sunday, 06.23, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Howard Jones is a pioneer of synth pop and one who learned to use difficult and temperamental equipment to compose some of the biggest hits of the 1980s like “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What Is Love” and “Like to Get to Know You Well.” While for some these may be light pop songs Jones’ voice expressive and highly emotional deliver stood out even back then in the heyday of that music. As a live performer now Jones is surprisingly forceful and charismatic with an expertly crafted light show whose music seems prescient considering the direction synthwave and chillwave has developed.

Monday | June 24

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Ginger Root, photo by Seannie Bryan

What: Ginger Root w/Oko Tygra and Hi-Fi Gentry
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: As Ginger Root, Cameron Lew has been making lush downtempo synth pop that sets itself very much apart with an attention to the low end. It gives his songs a sonic depth and flow that credibly gives a nod to 70s dance music and soul. Frankly, some filmmakers who are trying to nail that 70s and 80s vibe should hit up Lew to score and/or music supervise their projects because more than most people making music now who probably wasn’t alive at that time, he gets it and it’s not just having access to the vintage gear. But listen for yourself to his new singles “Weather” and “Slump” here.

What: Stevie Wonder
When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Stevie Wonder needs no introduction as a legend of soul, funk, R&B and jazz. He’s performing at this Red Rocks show as a fundraiser for SeriesFest.

Tuesday | June 25

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Mitski, photo by Bao Ngo

What: Death Cab for Cutie w/Mitski
When: Tuesday, 06.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Mitski Miyawaki recently announced that after her fall live bookings she was taking a hiatus from the grinding, album-release-cycle-and-touring of the music industry that allows little time for cultivating one’s life and creativity separate from its considering for delivering up to an audience in a form they are expecting. Miyawaki has had a respectable career and body of work up to now including her 2018 album Be the Cowboy. The latter pushed her songwriting to new heights of creativity in telling stories, self-examination and soundscaping. And a deep level of emotional honesty. With an album as great Be the Cowboy where does a songwriter go without repeating oneself while under the gun to produce something more quickly than one’s brain is prepared to deliver? With any luck she’ll find the time away from the cultural realm that Hunter S. Thompson famously critiqued before it got as bad as it is now by writing: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good [people] die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Wherever Miyawaki lands we wish her good fortune and happiness while hoping she comes back with a new set of music that continues her legacy of great songs.

Death Cab for Cutie is a band that helped to define and shape what “indie rock” has meant, sounded like and looked like since at least the late 90s. Now that the group has been fairly commercially successful for several years at this point its songwriting may lack some of the urgency and poignancy of its earlier output at least the band has a few decent songs with every album since the turn of the decade.

Wednesday | June 26

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J. Hamilton Isaacs, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Harry Tuft
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park – Shady Grove
Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of bluegrass and folk in Denver having run the Denver Folklore Center in the 60s through the 70s and as a founder of Swallow Hill. He seldomly performs but when he does his interpretations of other people’s songs and standards is always interesting and his originals worthy as well. As a champion of music for decades, Tuft ironically didn’t have many chances to play his own music until his 80s and he does so with emotional power and grace.

What: Die ANGEL, Xambuca, Equine, Ian Douglas Moore and J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Die ANGEL is Ilpo Väisänen of noise/drone legends Pan Sonic and Dirk Dresselhaus of avant-guitar group Schneider TM. With Die ANGELthe duo explore the kind of noise, ambient, sound environment composition that is an experience in itself in flowing sounds, tones and rumbling low end. It is a physical as well as a psychological experience that will engulf the room at Thought//Forms. Xambuca is a San Francisco-based modular synth and production artist who will bring his own depth of sonic field to the proceedings. Denver’s Equine is Kevin Richards whose avant-garde guitar work has been part of the Mile High City’s underground for nearly two decades as a member of weirdo, jazz/noise post-hardcore band Motheater and blackened noise duo Epileptinomicon. J. Hamilton Isaacs is one of the local music world’s champions of modular synth music as well as a noteworthy artist in his own right producing entrancing (no pun intended for those in the know) synth/dance music that blurs the line between ambient and more academic synth experiments.

What: No Vacation w/Okey Dokey and Hello, Mountain
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No Vacation’s take on surf rock-inflected dream pop is truly elegant and transporting like they’re able to relax and let whatever is in them speak through their collective efforts. Of course a lot of practice and playing together was involved but the band makes it look effortless and easy.

Best Shows in Denver 2/7/19 – 2/13/19

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Gang of Four performs at Globe Hall w/Plume Varia on February 11. Photo by DJ Markham

Thursday | February 7, 2019

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Hockey Dad, photo by Joseph Crackett

Who: Hockey Dad w/Hunny
When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.

Who: A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia
When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.

Friday | February 8, 2019

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Marcus Church, photo by Claudia Woodman

Who: Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself
When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.

Who: Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.

Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad
When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.

Who: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?

Saturday | February 9, 2019

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Don Chicharrón, photo by Spencer Higbee

Who: Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.

Who: An Evening With Nels Cline 4
When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.

Who: Esmé Patterson and band play the Songs of Prince from Sign O’ The Times w/Acuna Black and CRL CRRL
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Esmé Patterson brings together a group of ace players and collaborators to perform songs from Prince’s 1987 masterpiece Sign O’ The Times, which is entire apropos for the times we’re in now.

Who: Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.

Sunday | February 10, 2019

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Pedro the Lion, photo by Ryan Russell

Who: Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin
When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.

Monday | February 11, 2019

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Plume Varia performs Friday, 7/27 at Gary Lee’s. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gang of Four w/Plume Varia
When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.

Wednesday | February 13, 2019

Glissline_Oct12_2018_TomMurphy
Glissline, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.

Who: Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.