Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2023

Skinny Puppy performs at Fillmore Auditorium on May 3, 2023, photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014
Ruston Kelly, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Ruston Kelly w/Briscoe
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruston Kelly has never been limited by his association with country and Americana and his 2023 album The Weakness even expands what that music can sound like. His earnest and dynamically expressive vocals seem to come from a deep place in his live performances and in music that can have a hushed, introspective quality, Kelly brings a vulnerable fortitude to songs that could work as chamber pop or a cosmic and existential brand of folk informed by a frank self-examination that has an appeal that transcends genre. Best to catch an artist at a time of having transitioned to music that bursts past previous boundaries and fans of his earlier work would do well to see Kelly on this touring cycle.

Wilder Woods, photo by Darius Fitzgerald

Tuesday | 05.02
What: Wilder Woods w/Abraham Alexander
When: 6:30
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Needtobreathe lead singer Wilder Woods aka Bear Rinehart is now touring in support of his new album FEVER / SKY, a collection of spirited neo soul roots rock that sounds like it could have come from the same music scene that spawned Joe Cocker. It’s an album that sounds like the songwriter is coming to terms with who he is as a man and as an artist reckoning with his past and his purpose in life born of a time of isolation during the early pandemic and its impacts on the life of anyone that depended on the world of live music and its associated cultural and economic infrastructure. But Rinehart goes much further and hits deep places in his soul bared self-examination that are more cathartic than uncomfortable.

Skinny Puppy photo by Emilie Elizabeth and John Kraw, 2014

Wednesday | 05.03
What: Skinny Puppy w/Lead Into Gold
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Skinny Puppy were pioneers of electronic industrial music when it formed in 1982 out of the Vancouver, BC New Wave scene. Taking new technologies like sequencers and samplers and pushing the potential aesthetics of these new tools, Skinny Puppy had as much in common with hip-hop artists of that time and now as it did with underground and experimental electronic and industrial rock acts. Its themes of alienation, environmental destruction, animal rights and left politics, Skinny Puppy innovated musically and challenging convention in musical form as well as content. When early member Dwayne Goettel passed away in 1995 the band ended for several years even as a recording project before reuniting in 2000 for its first live performance since 1992. Four years later the group’s new album, the pointedly titled The Greater Wrong of the Right, released and Skinny Puppy toured again and has remained an active project since but with composition steeped in sound design and even more keen social commentary. Unfortunately this tour has been announced to be its last and will more than likely include Skinny Puppy’s signature high use of theatrical performances and striking visuals and some of the most well crafted, intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging electronic music ever made. The bonus is the opening act is Lead Into Gold, the long time project of Paul Barker, former bassist of Ministry.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, photo by Danny Clinch

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.03 and 05.04
What: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit w/Angel Olsen
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit is touring ahead of the June 9, 2023 release of the band’s new album Weathervanes so you’ll get plenty of material from the new record for this show. Isbell has become one of the most acclaimed songwriters of his generation for his vivid, sensitive and imaginative storytelling and delicate vocal style that makes it easy to forget what style of music he’s playing as it engages your emotions with an unexpected immediacy. In that way he’s like Neil Young whose own diverse songwriting and performance draw upon a broad array of methods and aesthetics that nevertheless have a comfortable familiarity. For these two dates Isbell will be joined by another of the modern great songwriters of the current era in Angel Olsen who seems to be able to make retro musical sensibilities seem modern and vibrant.

Nuovo Testamento, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.04
What: Molchat Doma w/Nuovo Testamento and Mothe
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Nuovo Testamento is a Los Angeles-based darkwave band whose sound blurs the line between post-punk, italo disco and synthpop. On its 2022 swing through Denver at the Hi-Dive the group’s performance was like seeing Madonna fronting Depeche Mode but with its own distinctive flavor. Its new album Love Lines is filled with gorgeously produced darkwave dance club hits like the soundtrack to a retrofuturist thriller that has yet to be made. Molchat Doma is the cult post-punk band from Minsk, Belarus whose introspective songs of loneliness and alienation have struck a chord well beyond their homeland. Its of necessity thin production style and minimalist guitar sound has proven massive influential in Russia as well as globally in the realm of post-punk and darkwave.

eHpH in 2023, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: I Ya Toyah w/eHpH, Hex Cassette, DJ Nitrogen
When: 9
Where: The Broadway Roxy
Why: I Ya Toyah is a Chicago-based artist whose dark electronic music has a kind of European flavor in the production and tonal palette. Like a darkwave/industrial Danielle Dax with elements of noise, ambient and breakcore in the mix. ehpH is the evolving, long time project of Fernando Altonago and Angelo Atencio also of post-punk rock band Plague Garden. The blend of EBM and industrial with punk attitude and social commentary always hits harder than expected and for this show more of the industrial side of their songwriting will be featured. Hex Cassette is a one man EBM/industrial cult leader of furiously energetic dance music and confrontational stage performance whose banter unsettles some but the choice and absurd humor value is undeniable.

Fishbone, photo by Pablo Mathiason

Saturday | 05.06
What: Fishbone w/Frontside Five
When: 6
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: Fishbone has been genre bending and bursting since 1979. Its hybrid style of ska, punk, funk and beyond was like the punk side of Afrofuturism. Its songs always seemed to depict a time in the non-too-distant days to come where people could just be who they are and have the normal struggles of life we all face. All along the way the group’s sharp social commentary was couched in a surreal sense of humor and infectious party anthem grooves that didn’t downplay the issues so much as provide a soundtrack for working through them and shining a light on corners of American society that are often swept under the rug. The group recently released “All We Have Is Now” on the Bottle Music for Broken People compilation on Fat Mike’s new NOFX imprint with founding member Chris Dowd performing on a recording for the first time since 1994 and the song has the same irreverent and fun-loving spirit one would hope for with new Fishbone material.

Zealot in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.06
What: Zealot w/Owosso and Loose Charm
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is celebrating the release of its new single “Newer Testament” at the Hi-Dive. Its literate yet spirited music is like if an indie rock band got reconnected with the intensity and musical inventiveness of early 2000s New York City rock with a similar level of imaginative songwriting and aim to make music that isn’t background playlist nonsense but which commands your attention. Owosso is a similarly-minded band comprised of local scene veterans who seem to have rediscovered a knack for crafting pop-inflected post-punk noise rock. If Loose Charm can be considered alt-country or post-rock its because its songs seem to be composed with ear for evocative melody and soundscaping that don’t usually go together unless you’re listening to something like Silver Jews or Wilco though Loose Charm doesn’t really sound like either.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.07
What: Munly & The Lupercalians w/Polly Urethane
When: 7:30
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Munly & The Lupercalians is like a darkly ritualistic, performance art mystical folk version of what Munly has been doing across his career. One might be tempted to compare it to neofolk but it’s more like a musical cognate to cinematic works like The Wicker Man and Kill List including the stage garb but also tied in with the singer’s baroque and stark poetry. Opening the performance is composer and performance artist Polly Urethane who seems to do a different type of performance and while sometimes combining musical elements and methods of previous performance with her new shows she always seems to push the boundaries of where she’s been before. Could be a weird DJ set, a visually striking performance to pre-recorded music with edgy components in presenting the material or who can say but always worth checking out.

Cobra Man, photo by Danner Gardner

Sunday | 05.07
What: Cobra Man w/Starbenders and Stolen Nova
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Cobra Man is a self-styled “power disco” duo comprised of Andy Harry and Sarah Rayne and currently touring in support of its new EP New Paradise which releases on May 19, 2023. The lead single “Thin Ice” has all the bombast and gloriously, unabashedly epic sound of something you might have heard on the soundtrack for a Cannon Pictures action movie from the 1980s. And the live band isn’t just a couple of button pushers basically doing karaoke to well-produced tracks. They’re like a post-irony glam rock band that exults in the grand sweep and sonic excess of its music.

Nox Novacula in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.08
What: Nox Novacula, Plague Garden and Weathered Statues
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Nox Novacula is a post-punk band from Seattle in the gritty death rock vein. Its moody guitar is shot through with a wiry energy and urgency that pairs well with impassioned vocals and driving rhythms. Its 2021 album Ascension bears obvious comparisons with Xmal Deutschland but with a more punk edge. Opening the show are two of Denver’s best post-punk outfits. Plague Garden’s music has a more electronic, New Wave-esque foundation with brooding lyrics and fiery, twin guitar work. Weathered Statues is a little more stark but with bright and buoyant vocals.

Ringo Deathstarr, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Ringo Deathstarr w/Pleasure Venom, Cherished and Bloodsports
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ringo Deathstarr is the cult shoegaze band out of Austin, Texas’ seemingly vibrant community for that style of music. Its own particular flavor is ethereal, drifty and transporting in that Slowdive and Lush vein but with its own fuzzily psychedelic sheen. It’s been two years since the group’s self-titled full-length so maybe we’ll get to see some newer material for this stop in Denver. For this trip to the Pacific Northwest, Ringo Deathstarr is joined by Austin noise-rock/art punks Pleasure Venom with local support in Denver from Sonic Youth-esque post-punk band Bloodsports and shoegaze/post-punk greats Cherished.

Death Grips in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.09
What: Death Grips
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Death Grips is the now legendary industrial hip-hop group from Sacramento, California comprised of MC Ride, Andy Morin and Zach Hill. The group has become known for its edgy imagery and its disdain for playing along with music industry expectations and doing so with creativity and deep irreverence. But its well-publicized antics perhaps boosted the group’s cachet while its inventive music spoke for itself with artwork and album and track names that demonstrated a keen awareness of internet culture and American social reality. When the band did perform live it was an incendiary and aggressive affair that has been unforgettable.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Pixies w/Pond
When: 6:30
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Pond from Perth, Australia has been developing and evolving its cinematic, psychedelic art rock since 2008 and its 2021 album 9 sounds like a series of interconnected short films. There’s a spaciousness and dramatic sense of mood and atmosphere that washes around the core rhythms and melodies as they burst with emotion. Like if Pink Floyd hung out with Hawkwind more and ditched their epic sweeps in favor of their more raw rock instincts but infused it with disco and funk. Australia has become known for its popular psychedelic bands but fortunately for the world they’re all very different from each other and Pond is a band whose creative trajectory has left behind some fine listening. Of course there’s also the headlining band, Pixies, who were a choice cult band in its first iteration from the mid-80s through the early 90s and highly influential for its wonderfully eccentric lyrics and brilliantly unconventional, noisy, eruptively energetic alternative rock. But once a younger generation caught wind of the band through the appearance of “Where Is My Mind?” on the soundtrack of Fight Club it became a much more popular band and able to tour on the strength of its older material and bring its sound, foundational to modern rock music, to a much wider audience.

Spike Hellis in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Spike Hellis w/Candy Apple, Moon 17 and Sell Farm
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spike Hellis is basically making the kind of modern EBM and industrial that is informed by punk and even hardcore in its raw energy of delivery. In the live show it’s reminiscent of the kind of hard hitting vibe one might hear in early Nitzer Ebb and Meat Beat Manifesto but with the aesthetics of a modern, glitchcore project but with all the extraneous sonics ripped out but with the bombast left in place. One of the most electrifying live bands in the modern realm of darkwave. Sell Farm has lately been dipping deep into sequencing and sampling to create dystopian, politically charged dub dance post-punk. Candy Apple bridges the gap between a hardcore band and shoegaze-tinged noise rock. Moon 17 is a “Sci-Fi Industrial” band from Kansas City helmed by Zack Hames. The genre seems to fit even if it was dropped as slightly humorous but one hopes Nicolas Winding Refn taps these bands for his next movie soundtrack.

Greg Puciato, photo by Jim Louvau

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Greg Puciato w/Escuela Grind, Deaf Club and Trace Amount
When: 6:30
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Greg Puciato is the former lead singer and lyricist for metalcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside of the context of that band, Pusciato has been a member of synthwave band The Black Queen with its deep atmospheric, cinematic sounds akin to something you might expect to hear from the likes of Failure. And in recent years his solo records have been a fusion and evolution of his past work into something that reconciles an aggressive sound and energy with introspective sentiments and electronic aesthetics. The 2022 album Mirrorcell sounds like where metalcore should have gone and might be more favorably compared to a project like Author & Punisher or Blacklist. Opening are some heavy hitters as well with noise rock supergroup Deaf Club with Justin Person of The Locust, Brian Amalfitano of AcxDC, Scott Osment of Weak Flesh, Jason Klein of Run With The Hunted and Tommy Meehan of The Manx. And Escuela Grind, the modern grindcore/powerviolence legends from Pittsfield, Massachusetts who are quickly establishing themselves as a live band to catch whose songs are informed by a “intersectional progressive” revolutionary, inclusive fervor.

Metronymy, photo by Hazel Gaskin

Wednesday | 05.10
What: Metronymy w/Glüme
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Metronymy has been constantly evolving its experimental pop sound with an early focus on exquisitely alien techno soundscapes to its more recent albums that demonstrate its finely honed songcraft with organic elements that seem to more directly reflect tender human experiences with a startling poignancy. Its 2019 album Metronymy Forever wasn’t the first hint at a shift in sound and style but it is an album full of the kind of songwriting one might expect on a Wilco record or an album by The National. And the group’s 2022 album Small World is fully in that mode with songs that are vulnerable yet rich in subtle production that clears the space for the lyrics and organic textures of the music to shine making Metronymy a fascinating anomaly in the expanded realm of modern indie rock.

Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.12
What: Church Fire w/Calm., Moon Pussy, Sorrows
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire is celebrating the release of its new music video. For what song? Who knows? You’ll have to go to find out and maybe it’ll be released online later. But video or not, Church Fire’s emotionally vibrant industrial dance music is best experienced live without the filters of a purely online experience. Calm. is the hip-hop duo of Time and Awareness who have been putting out some of the most literate and politically charged hip-hop out of the Mile High City in recent years and don’t do many shows at venues like the Hi-Dive or similarly-sized venues these days. And hip-hop in generally isn’t getting a lot of traction at smaller clubs in general but Hi-Dive is an exception to that general rule. Chris “Time” Steele will probably crack wise between songs with genuine wit. Moon Pussy is the getting to be known nationally on the underground circuit noise rock band from Denver whose eruptive music and explosive energy always seems to exceed expectation. SORROWS is a downtempo electronic duo of Glynnis Braan and Lawrence Snell whose dark atmospherics and operatic vocals pull from diverse influences.

Friday | 05.12
What: 7038634357, Verity Larsen, Emilie Craig, sleepdial and Polly Urethane
When: 9
Where: Glob
Why: 7038634357 seems to be a generative ambient noise artist from Arlington, VA whose releases display a knack for signal processing. Verity Larsen combines musique concrète with prepared environmental recordings and ambient soundscapes to produce sonic experiences that recontextualize everyday experiences. French Kettle Station is performing as sleepdial, his more ambient experiments in electronics and sometimes guitar. Polly Urethan you just never know what to expect from how now broad palette of ideas for performance and music and just be prepared to get to witness something unique and potentially challenging.

Friday | 05.12
What:
Frontline Assembly and Whorticulture
When: 9
Where: Tracks
Why: EBM pioneers Frontline Assembly is performing for this “Bladerunner — A Cyberpunk Party” and providing the perfect soundtrack for such an event with its dystopian lyrics and electronic industrial.

Friday | 05.12
What: Crowded House w/Liam Finn
When: 7
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Australian band Crowded House is perhaps best remembered for its outstanding 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with its spare yet orchestral melody. But Crowded House produced some quality folk pop during its initial run of 1985-1996 and when it has since reunited in the 2000s and 2020s still led by singer/guitarist Neil Finn who had a fairly successful career while Crowded House was split.

White Rose Motor Oil circa 2021, photo courtesy the band

Saturday | 05.13
What: Scott H. Biram w/Garrett T. Capps and White Rose Motor Oil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Scott H. Biram is the renowned blues punk musician/solo artist whose troubadour country ballads could seem like pure affectation but he’s done his time in punk and metal and bluegrass in crafting his signature gritty, gospel blues sound. Supporting this bill is the great Denver-based alternative country/outlaw rockabilly band White Rose Motor Oil whose own spare line-up as a duo always seems to punch above its weight in its forcefulness and emotional impact.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Angella Choe

Sunday | 05.14
What: Caroline Polachek w/Alex G and Indigo De Souza
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Indigo De Souza’s songs have since early on been an expression of a moody vulnerability cast as deeply atmospheric pop songs that are often pointed but never cruel, simply honest and poetic. Her latest album out on Saddle Creek is 2023’s All of This Will End continues the development of her vibrant songwriting filled with stories that take the pain of lived experience and reflecting on the broad expanse of feelings one goes through in life and sitting in them and finding a way to put them into stories that give them a context that makes them something from which to learn and exult in life rather than be overwhelmed by disappointment, bitterness, petty betrayal (by others and by oneself). And she’s a perfect artist in this line-up of other art pop practitioners of note such as Alex G who has taken conceptual psychedelic rock to fascinating new heights and headliner Caroline Polacek who as a member of Charlift (which was founded in Boulder, Colorado while she was attending CU) made some of the cooler indie rock to have emerged out of that decade that produced the foundations of much of what we hear now. But in her solo career she has emerged as an innovative and experimental artist whose pop songs don’t seem beholden to anyone else’s style bending genres and sounds to suit her creative vision of the moment. For her 2023 album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You you can hear the impact of hyper pop and glitch but as elements and not a root.

Salads and Sunbeams, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.14
What: Spooky Mansion w/Sour Magic and Salads and Sunbeams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spooky Mansion is a surf-rock inflected psychedelic lounge pop band from Los Angeles making a couple of stops in Colorado including this date at the Hi-Dive. Denver’s Sour Magic sound like they could have come from a similar musical lineage but with more luminous guitar melodies. Like maybe they got deep into DIIV and Mac Demarco and found their own voice as a band. Salads and Sunbeams is the kind of band that has crafted exquisite psychedelic indiepop that might have come right out of an unlikely scene that included the Zombies and The Apples in Stereo. But it works and doesn’t have that throwback yesteryear worship vibe even if to some extent that’s what it is because the songwriting stands on its own and worthy of its obvious and not so obvious influences.

Wednesday, photo by Zachary Chick

Monday | 05.15
What: Wednesday w/Cryogeyser
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Wednesday from Asheville, North Carolina has garnered a bit of a cult following among fans of experimental noise rock and shoegaze and whatever one might call Canadian guitar bands like Women, Preoccupations and FRIGS. But then there’s another side of the band’s sound and that’s the more country flavor of some of its songs, unabashed, borderline cosmic honky tonk stuff. And Wednesday makes it work because it’s obvious the group is fully steeped in both creative instincts and its records are a journey for which a variety of sounds make sense. In particular its 2023 record Rat Saw God and its vivid stories of life in the American South told with great nuance, insight and poignancy. At times the songs can take you by surprise with an offhand lyric that’s so real but delivered with the nonchalance that makes it palatable and it all feeds into what’s making Wednesday one of the most fascinating bands of this moment.

Monday | 05.15
What: Yves Tumor w/Pretty Slick and NATION
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Yves Tumor is an artist whose genre-bending art rock/hip-hop/electronic dance music/funk seems tapped into a raw, otherworldly energy that is a reflection of the anxieties and nightmares of the world we experience everyday. The 2023 album Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) is more overtly rock than earlier albums but still like an alien glam rock that feels ahead of the curve. Live, Yves Tumor is a commanding figure with a lot of swagger and electrifying presence.

Narrow Head, photo by Nate Kahn

Monday | 05.15
What: Narrow Head w/Graham Hunt, Public Opinion and Flower Language
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Houston’s Narrow Head much like Phoenix’s Holy Fawn probably come from a general realm of local scene music but whereas Holy Fawn has transcended black metal into more the realm of a post-rock shoegaze, Narrow Head may have found its origins in a music scene that had or has fine examples of the resurgence of hardcore and emo in the compelling form that emerged all over the country in the past decade. But the band as we hear it on its new album Moments of Clarity is the kind of heavy shoegaze with dynamics like blossoming melodies and soaring vocals that seem to harmonize with the ethereal fuzz and dense low end to give the songs an undeniable uplift.

Tim Hecker in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Tim Hecker
When: 7
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Can’t really blame Tim Hecker for expressing in his recent interview in the New York Times his misgivings for having helped to popularize ambient music since it has become such a workhorse of the bland playlist culture of Spotify. Who wants to be handmaiden to that? But to Hecker’s credit he’s always been an artist who has explored new vistas of the art form in terms of form, structure, sound palette, presentation and instrumentation. His new album No Highs is imbued with a textural, intimate quality that feels very much of the body as his music does in the live setting rather than the offensively bland and background quality of generic playlist ambient.

Mr. Bungle, photo courtesy Buzz Osborne

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Mr. Bungle w/Melvins and Spotlights
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: No matter where you check in on the Mr. Bungle timeline you will find boundary-pushing music that bends and breaks genres from the early death metal-surrealism to the lush and theatrical art rock of its late 90s output. Currently the band is touring with a lineup that includes Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn, Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo so who can say what the setlist will sound like whether its more baroque pop stuff or the material from its recently reissued 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. Whatever it might be, the show will be bombastic and mind-expanding. Bonus: Melvins, the sludge rock legends, will bring their always riveting and cathartic performance of its own music that spans various ends of heavy rock with a hard hitting finesse.

Tuesday | 05.16
What: Hoodoo Gurus
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Hoodoo Gurus are the legendary Australian garage rock band that was an influence on generations of bands that have been keyed into its particular brand of jangle psychedelia and punk. Currently the band is touring in support of its 2022 album Chariot of the Gods.

Future Islands in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.17
What: Future Islands w/Deeper
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Future Islands has come a long way from playing DIY spaces in Denver to Red Rocks and now headlining Mission Ballroom. But what hasn’t changed is its emotionally gripping synth pop and impassioned live performances. For this night Chicago’s arty post-punk band Deeper will bring its darkly atmospheric and poignant music to the proceedings.

Sparta, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 05.18
What: Sparta w/’68 and Geoff Rickly
When: 6
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The 2002 album Wiretap Scars is where Sparta picked up where At The Drive-In, singer Jim Ward’s then most recently prominent band, left off. The angular, Fugazi-esque, anthemic songs that astutely commented on the times without being so topical as to age poorly in the years ahead. Rather, Wiretap Scars today seems perhaps even more relevant than it did when America was in a state of confusion and nascent authoritarianism and misplaced nationalistic patriotism was starting to settle into the swing of public life. There is a passionate coherence of productive outrage on the record and based on the group’s 2022 tour Sparta will deliver on that messaging on this tour as well.

Thursday | 05.18
What: The Mssng w/To Be Astronauts and Tiny Humans
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Mssng is a band whose hybrid of styles sometimes comes off like people who were inspired by the agglomeration of 90s alternative rock, post-punk revival and the glam rock end of modern garage rock. To Be Astronauts has generally been sort of a 90s throwback, alternative hard rock band who displayed all the stylistic fingerprints of 2000s stoner rock but with more melody. Lately some of the band’s recordings have included versions of songs, live and otherwise, that reveal that if you strip away some of those hard rock instincts you find a band that has some solid songwriting with nothing to prove. Sure, it’s a bit like a better version of the kind of acoustic and electric alt-rock you might have heard from the likes of Counting Crows which isn’t for everyone but respectable nonetheless. Tiny Humans, what can you say, except that the singer has to stop being carted on stage in a wheelchair and in hospital robes and pretending like he’s doing a Nirvana tribute band when it’s more obvious it’s a strange attempt to fully emulate The Amboy Dukes’ guitarist’s entire solo career. But hey, who doesn’t appreciate such fetishistic performance art?

Friday | 05.19
What: Vast Aire (Cannibal Ox) w/Gee Tee and guests
When: 9
Where: Bar Red 437 W. Colfax
Why: Vast Aire is the charismatic and enigmatic rapper who is perhaps best known for his work with alternative hip-hop group Cannibal Ox. His forceful delivery and vivid, socially conscious storytelling once encountered sticks with you because his various collaborators like El-P on the 2001 classic album The Cold Vein are able to create a darkly haunting soundscape from which his voice stands out like an urban mystic and mythological poet.

MUNA, photo by Isaac Schneider

Friday | 05.19
What: MUNA w/Nova Twins
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Given that the members of MUNA all have academic backgrounds in music or cultural studies one might expect the music to be something more cerebral or conceptual. And initially when developing their own material the trio of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson experimented with sounds and styles before coming upon exuberant pop songs with earworm hooks and lyrics that are sure about instantly relatable subjects of love and relationships but also with a sensitivity toward issues of identity beyond the usual tropes and which resonate broadly. The group released its 2022 self-titled album to critical acclaim and now MUNA is on a headlining tour of large concert halls with a supporting slot on the upcoming Taylor Swift tour where an appreciative audience for its particularly expansive and upbeat songs will be found.

Friday | 05.19
What: Shady Oaks w/Weary Bones, Fern Roberts and The Picture Tour
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shady Oaks is a mix of blues and indie rock and Americana. Weary Bones is a bit of an Americana jam band from Louisville, Colorado but more in the vein of Widespread Panic where there are coherent songs that have resonance beyond the genre. It released its latest album Humble Echoes in 2023. Fern Roberts might be described as an indie rock band that seems to be equally influenced by Bright Eyes, 90s alternative rock and the more pop end of Built to Spill. The main reason to go to this show is to see the live debut of former Emerald Siam guitarist Billy Armijo’s band The Picture Tour. Its 2022 album Before the Sound, Before the Light was an audacious debut of introspective, gloomy shoegaze with an ear for interweaving atmospheres and feedback sculpting to produce unique melodies and an enveloping sound.

Fruit Bats, photo by Chantal Anderson

Friday | 05.19
What: Fruit Bats w/Kolumbo
When: 7
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The new Fruit Bats album A River Running To Your Heart seems assembled and composed as a cinematic experience as much as one more musical. When the record gets up and going its intricate guitar arrangements flow with a grace and elegance that one normally hears more in music that operates at a slower pace and yet for this set of songs Eric D. Johnson and the band never sound rushed. The music is just focused even in reflective passages and there is an energy to the music that pulls you in. Fans of early The War on Drugs will hear some resonance here but Johnson’s songs seem to reign in the impulse to psychedelic self-indulgence and one gets the sense that as free as the music feels that it’s been crafted to edit out excesses that don’t contribute to one of the most consistently enchanting pop albums of the year.

Placebo, photo by Mads Perch

Saturday | 05.20
What: Placebo w/Deap Valley and Poppy Jean Crawford – canceled
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Placebo emerged at a time in the mid-1990s when the alternative rock wave was basically spent and a lot of really dull, beige rock and roll and uninspired pop was peddled as exciting. Placebo offered something that seemed to reinvent the edginess of the darker end of grunge with a more glam rock sense of theater and drama. Its early albums dipped into rock and dance music equally before it became even more of a thing at the turn of the century and in a fashion different than had been done by the likes of New Order, Primal Scream and their storied ilk. Its 1998 album Without You I’m Nothing and its promotional videos revealed a band that seemed to have embraced Goth-like personal darkness in musical style and outward presentation. That the band appeared in Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam rock fictional biopic of David Bowie and Iggy Pop and that early 1970s era didn’t hurt in establishing Placebo’s cred as a band that embodied the emerging new alternative culture. The band’s 2022 album Never Let Me Go, perhaps a reference to Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 tragic novel of of the same name as well as the 2010 film, its first in 9 years has Placebo pushing its own boundaries beyond where it has been before as a band with an unabashed use of saturated synth melodies and a much more creative use of processed guitar in rock music than we’ve heard in awhile. And if you’re going to have an opening acts like mutant garage psych duo Deap Valley and experimental pop/singer-songwriter Poppy Jean Crawford that just hints that someone in your camp has been listening for something different and actually cool which isn’t always the case in the music industry even on accident.

Fenne Lily, photo by Michael Tyrone Delaney

Saturday | 05.20
What: Fenne Lily & Christian Lee Hutson w/Anna Tivel
When: 8
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The intimate production on Fenne Lily’s new album Big Picture puts her expressive and breathy vocals front and center without pushing the delicate, almost impressionistic, warm and layered guitar work into the background. The songwriter sounds resigned on these set of songs but that seems to come more out of a sense of having to come to terms with how you can never really get too complacent in life nor do you want to and that sometimes getting to used to comfort can be a path antithetical to personal growth but also how feeling like you’re always having to fend off life’s static and unpredictably intermittent challenges can be kind of a bummer even if you’re able to brush them off and move forward. Lily sounds like she understands and has some deep empathy for how in recent years everyday challenges have seemed like a bit much and how that pace isn’t exactly relenting yet we do have to maintain a core of some grace to weather this steady stream of a whole lot of everything. Big Picture, the title alone, points to how stepping back in the moment can give you the pause you need to keep things in perspective even if you have a moment or ten.

Shania Twain, photo courtesy the artist

Sunday | 05.21
What: Shania Twain w/Hailey Whitters
When: 6:30
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Shania Twain needs no introduction. The “Queen of Country Pop” is one of the best selling artists of all time. Certainly in the realm of country and pop music of the last 30 years. Normally in this show listing these kinds of artists don’t make the cut because they’re just too mainstream and not creatively interesting. But Twain was a pioneer in pushing country music into the realm of pop. She and Garth Brooks, whether you’re into their music or not, paved the way for people like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood to find an audience beyond the niche of country. Twain’s humor and charisma made her songs appealing beyond genre and continue to do so. In 2023 Twain released her new album Queen of Me which features current production techniques (even some elements of hyper pop) one might expect to hear on the record of a newer artist but of course the draw is her commanding voice and ability to articulate a range of feelings that seem to capture timeless experiences in new ways that fortunately hint that Twain is keenly aware of not only her place as a country artist that has always embraced new sounds but as one who has also been trying on new ways of having her songs hit with fresh sounds and songwriting that doesn’t sound like she’s stuck in the past.

Sunday | 05.21
What: Violent Femmes w/Jesse Ahern
When: 5
Where: Levitt Pavillion
Why: Violent Femmes will perform its 1983 self-titled debut album in its entirety for this show. That record was a staple of alternative rock radio and college dorms for decades. Its weird blend of folk, punk, jazz and outsider pop had an undeniable, immediate and enduring appeal with classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up” and “Gone Daddy Gone” but the whole record beginning to end is a journey into the essence of youthful angst and frustrations but expressed in a way that somehow remained relevant well beyond anyone’s teen years. The Femmes remain a force in the live setting and always surprisingly powerful yet fun.

Arts Fishing Club, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Arts Fishing Club w/Homes at Night
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Arts Fishing Club is an indie rock band from Nashville that formed in 2016. Singer/guitarist Christopher Kessenich grew up seeing live music with his father and older brothers witnessing a mix of alternative music, classic rock and jam bands all of which fed into his own eclectic songwriting. The band’s debut album Rothko Sky (due out June 16, 2023) is arranged as a kind of personal journey of a person who in the first half of the record sets out in life idealistic and open to everything only to find out that all of us have limitations both human and of our own unique psychology. On the album’s second half there is a reflection on the nature and impact of love, sex and pain and how that can shape who we are once the shine and novelty of new experiences evolves into appreciating the breadth and depth of life. The songs have a bluesy grit and an often impassioned delivery informed by the flow of its narrative element for a record that sounds like it had to be made by a band a few releases into its career once it has figured out who it is and what it wants to say with intention but with the exuberance of a new band intact. Listen to our interview with Kessenich on the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp.

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.22
What: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/ADULT. and KANGA
When: 6:30
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult is currently touring celebrating its 36 years as a band with a set list that focuses on the group’s first decade. The band’s campy, industrial disco sleaze has always demonstrated a more fun and lighthearted side of industrial culture while offering a distinctive visual and musical style in its bombastic live shows. By the time Thrill Kill Kult appeared in The Crow (1994), the band had already been staples of the more underground end of alternative rock write large but its performance in the film was the perfect embodiment of the aesthetics of the movie. ADULT. is the great industrial post-punk duo from Detroit whose music of the past few years has really been the musical reflection of the conflicted and dystopian times we’ve been going through with a world on the brink of domination by authoritarian regimes and the already unfolding disastrous consequences of climate change with little to no vision and action by world leaders. ADULT.’s music is an act of human solidarity and a catharsis of ambient despair. KANGA is a Los Angeles-based producer whose dusky pop music is darkwave adjacent but also adjacent to a more dance beat infused chillwave and vaporwave with sultry vocals. It might be more apt to compare KANGA to the likes of Charli XCX and Jessie Ware than an artist out of the Goth world.

Martin Dupont, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Martin Dupont w/Julian St. Nightmare and French Kettle Station and Kill You Club DJs
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Legendary French New Wave band Martin Dupont, formed in 1982, is playing few shows on this tour through the US and one of those stops is in Denver. The group has a new album out called Kintsugi that with its sweeping synths and darkly melancholic melodies seems to have arrived in time for the current era of appreciation for its particular style of cold wave pop/minimal synth and marking its first album in 36 years. French Kettle Station might be described as a hybrid New Age/glitch/post-Cloud rap/abstract post-rock artist whose stage antics involve some impressive dance moves and prodigious energy. Julian St. Nightmare is one of the best post-punk bands from Denver at the moment whose songs seem to have emerged out of its members having gone through phases of playing garage and psychedelic rock and surf but come through with some strong songwriting skills and the ability to craft moody yet powerful songs that don’t sound like the cookie cutter version of modern darkwave.

Y La Bamba, photo by Jenn Carillo

Tuesday | 05.23
What: Y La Bamba w/Ritmo Cascabel
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ya La Bamba is currently touring in support of its new record Lucha which in its typically exploratory fashion employs folk music of various traditions and an experimental soundscaping aesthetic that allows for a rich expression of themes and the sounds that serve to anchor them in your mind. The album is one about various identities and how they overlap and how we can come to embrace them as a coherent and intermingled part of our existence no matter what those categories might be of gender, sexuality, culture and individual psychology. It’s a gentle record but one that runs deep into the aforementioned subjects and through that more vulnerable approach that encourages patience with self and others is able to more successfully enter into the more tender realms of the heart and mind and comment with an intuitive insight. The psychedelic folk of these songs are ambitious in scope and imagination and the live band always seems to truly render the songs into a vibrant and moving form.

Mareux, photo by Nedda Afsari

Friday | 05.26
What: Mareux w/Cold Gawd
When: 7
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Mareux established his cult following as a darkwave artist with singles and EPs over the past few years. What set him apart from some of his peers though are his deeply lush and detailed production with rich low end, his dusky and soulful vocals and his poetic tales of romantic yearning like something out of late night cafe reminiscing about heartbreak and lost loves. Currently the producer/singer/songwriter is touring in support of his debut full-length Lovers From the Past, a record that reveals a dimensionality to Mareux’s gift for conveying sonic depth and emotional nuance. Opening is the Cold Gawd whose 2022 album God Get Me the Fuck Out of Here was one of the records of choice to connoisseurs of shoegaze and music that pushes the boundaries of established styles. With R&B beats and granular guitar melodies in densely expressive layers, Cold Gawd is helping to reshape what both forms of music have to sound like and whether there has to be a separation.

Hot Chip, photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Friday | 05.26
What: Chromeo and Hot Chip w/Coco & Breezy and Cimafunk
When: 5
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo seems to regularly tour with its bombastic and visually arresting live show and always with an innovative opening act or two along for the ride. For this outing at Red Rocks you will get to see Hot Chip. The UK band came to prominence in the early 2000s for its innovative fusion of synthpop and dance music that sounds like a successor to the kinds of sounds we heard out of Madchester, the Balearic Beat, disco and neo soul. Hot Chip always seems to have a keen ear for use of space in its compositions and how that can have a very powerful emotional resonance that goes beyond the mere us of dazzling, atmospheric melodies and strong beats. Its latest album is 2022’s Freakout/Release which found the band leaning heavy into its alternative pop sound with some nice experimental moments reminiscent of Kraftwerk and perhaps contemporaries it influenced like Cut Copy. It might be the group’s most full-realized album in its long career.

Ganser, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 05.26
What: Ganser w/Antibroth and The Red Scare
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Ganser is probably well within the realm of post-punk but artier and with a more interesting palette of sounds upon which it draws. In moments like noise rock math rock psychedelic weirdos with angular flow but with an ear for sculpting the collective soundscape it creates. In this way the band has more in common with other Chicago weirdo post-punk bands like Facs or Dehd or beyond the Windy City and akin to bands like Studded Left, Body Double, Dry Cleaning, Lithics or FRIGS. Whatever the exact nature of Ganser might be for anyone into more experimental post-punk that isn’t being defined by a trendy sound. Opening are confrontational, mathy post-punk band Antibroth and the more noise rock The Red Scare.

Suzanne Ciani, photo by Katja Ruge

Saturday | 05.27
What: Suzanne Ciani w/Colloboh
When: 7
Where: Central Presbyterian Church
Why: Synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani is doing a rare performance in Denver this night with quadraphonic sound and a projection-mapped light show. Ciani’s long career has seen her work appear in film, television and commercials as music and sound effects and her 1980s and beyond New Age albums have been nominated for a Grammy five times. Her contributions to sound design and music has been a part of popular culture in ways both subtle and overt and her unique achievements as a composer in league with the likes of Morton Subotnick, Wendy Carlos, Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros and Delia Derbyshire. Don’t sleep on these shows. You may never get another chance to see Ciani live.

Nerver, photo from Bandcamp

Saturday | 05.27
What: Nerver, Almanac Man and Edith Pike
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nerver from Kansas City is a rising noise rock band in the vein of the kinds of artists you’d hear from Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. It’s 2022 album CASH was a brutal yet haunting selection of songs that are somehow both melancholic and introspective yet fiery in their cathartic moments. In 2023 Nerver released a split with noise rock legends Chat Pile called BROTHERS IN CHRIST. Edith Pike’s self-titled EP from 2022 may have been pretty lo-fi but you can hear the kind of screamo-noise rock crossover sound that may have its roots in hardcore but has evolved beyond the predictable version of that music. Almanac Man also from Denver has the kind of gristly noise rock that’s feral like Neurosis but with a post-punk angularity that gives its music a vibe like Shellac if Steve Albini had come up in the music world he helped to influence.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.27
What: Meet the Giant album release w/Church Fire and The Mssng
When: 8
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Meet the Giant is releasing its new album We Are Revolting. The group’s 2018 self-titled debut was the product of several years of woodshedding musical ideas and songs as well as production and its gritty mix of rock and downtempo with emotionally stirring vocals reflected with the then emergent live band. This time around the trio appears to have focused on an even sonically edgier catharsis with songs that express an anger born of frustration and weariness at the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves in America and really worldwide. As touchstones one might point to the likes of Failure and its own fusion of rock and electronic sensibilities and a sheen of the cinematic. Or Nine Inch Nails in even further implementing sound design elements in the mix. But Meet the Giant’s songs tend to be more melodic and its sound having more in common with a modern shoegaze band with a bit more rock and roll kick to its songwriting. Church Fire is also on the bill bringing its own reinvented amalgam of political, electronic industrial dance music and are rock touches.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Sunday | 05.28
What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Porlolo and Wheelright
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outlaw country, country-punk, whatever designation fits Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Sarah Shook is one of the most distinctive voices in modern country music on the still fairly underground level where a great deal of the best of that and other musical styles are found. Shook’s voice has enough of a rough edge to be interesting but their melodic resonance serves well stories of every day life written in a way that seems so specific yet relatable in spirit and substance. Speaking of, Pololo is more an indie rock band but Erin Roberts has a gift for turning a sense of humor into music with a sharply observational and existential bent.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 05.28
What: Yob w/Cave In and Dreadnought
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Yob is an influential doom band that began in 2000 before splitting in 2006 and reconvening in 2008. Its sound is definitely in that realm of mining what Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Sleep and Earth had done before but seeing Yob live it seems obvious that Mike Scheidt is injecting a sense of fun into the music and its flows of heavy rock is tinged with psychedelia. This coming year the group is re-issuing its debut album Elaborations of Carbon so perhaps the set list will favor that record but either way, Yob is a fun live band that makes music that is both cosmic and deeply human. Cave In is the influential post-hardcore, foundational metalcore band from Massachusetts. Dreadnought is the doom band from Denver whose rhythmic style has a tribal sensibility and whose overall sound is more atmospheric, psychedelic and more rooted in dark folk than many of its heavy music peers.

Djunah, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 05.29
What: Djunah w/Moon Pussy and Limbwrecker
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chicago’s Djunah is a noise rock band of the kind that fans of the jarring and cathartic music of HIDE and Diamanda Galás might find much to their liking. Fronted by guitarist/singer/Moog bass player Donna Diane, Djunah recently released its new album Femina Furens. The heaviness of the music doesn’t just come from its gloriously clashing dynamics and instrumentation, it’s, per Djunah’s Bandcamp page, “the story of diagnosis and continuing recovery from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. The album’s title comes from the Latin for ‘furious woman.’ The artwork is inspired by representations of the divine feminine in 1970s sci-fi metal art.” Touchstones on a quick listen would have to include Chelsea Wolfe, Patti Smith and Nick Cave for the exuberantly unleashed emotional energy present within. Who better to open than Denver’s Moon Pussy whose own eruptive noise rock while often accompanied by an eccentric sense of humor between songs has a similarly elemental energy that releases personal darkness, pain and frustrations in built and rapidly uncoiled tensions. Limbwrecker has a similar aesthetic though from a place that seems more steeped in a foundation of hardcore and extreme metal.

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya

Monday and Tuesday | 05.29 and 05.30
What: LCD Soundsystem w/M.I.A. and Peaches
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks
Why: LCD Soundsystem is the band started by James Murphy of DFA Records as a vehicle for his experiments in blending indie rock and electronic dance music. Though often associated with “dance punk,” LCD Soundsystem is much more wide-ranging than that designator would suggest with innovative production and a highly experimental approach to songwriting format and style beginning with the early single “I’m Losing My Edge” to its newer material like “New Body Rhumba” from the soundtrack to Noah Baumbach’s 2022 film White Noise based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel of the same name. Perhaps just as noteworthy for this show are the opening artists. Sure, irreverent and theatrical electroclash pioneer Peaches was in Denver recently with a powerful and entertaining show at the Summit Music Hall but rapper M.I.A., who learned how to make her own music from Peaches, hasn’t played in this area since her most recent national tour in 2008 at the Fillmore Auditorium, and her own music and performances are informed by her fusion of hip-hop, experimental electronic dance music, non-Western musical styles and an activist bent that challenges human rights abuse and imperialism.

Helloween, photo by Martin Häusler

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Helloween w/Hammerfall
When: 6
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Helloween is the influential power metal band from Hamburg, Germany. Since 1984 released a string of albums that have often featured concepts and storytelling commenting on the human condition in both personal, emotive narratives and paralleling historical references with current events and commenting on recurring themes of human civilization and the impact of culture and those in power on the lives of people within and without a particular country. The iconography of the pumpkin has been part of the group’s artwork since early on and infuses the often weighty subject matter of the songwriting with a touch of humor and humanity. In 2016 older Helloween lead vocalists Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen rejoined along with long time singer Andi Deris for the kind of sound not many groups in metal have ever had in one band. In May 2023 the group was slated for induction into the Metal Hall of Fame. In the coming days look for our audio interview with guitarist Sascha Gerstner on the Queen City Sounds Podcast series.

Ryan Oakes, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Ryan Oakes w/Layto and Cherie Amour
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ryan Oakes released his new album WAKE UP on May 12, 2023. The album makes good on the rapper’s experiments in genre bending and blending. The subject matter is about personal struggle, mental health difficulties and overcoming adversity but the attitude and delivery is punk set to trap beats and production for a sound that could be a complete disaster but works because the words are raw and real and the music hitting with an exhilarating immediacy. Somehow Oakes takes the anthemic quality of modern post-hardcore emo and a dazzling parade of current cultural references to tell stories of striving and struggling in an era of amplified anxiety and pressure to succeed despite human limitations and vulnerabilities. Oakes doesn’t bother not tapping into hyper pop’s sonic surrealism and industrial hip-hop as well as the aforementioned styles to create a compelling sound of his own.

Drain, photo by Christian Castillo

Tuesday | 05.30
What: Drain w/Drug Church, MSPAINT and TORENA
When: 7
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Drain is a melodic hardcore trio from Santa Cruz, California that recently released its new album Living Proof. Drug Church hails from the opposite end of the country in Albany, NY but its own style of hardcore is also not short on melody but its style is one with some roots in pop punk or the modern, better, version that emerged in the early 2010s. But the real reason to go to this show is to see MSPAINT from Hattiesburg, Mississippi whose debut full length Post-American release came out on Convulse Records. Clearly the band came out of the punk/hardcore scene but it’s synth-driven art punk is stranger and more colorful than a lot of what else is on offer for this night but delivered with the same level of intense energy and outpouring of passion. One might compare the band to Milemarker and The VSS but it’s really its own, unique flavor of challenging-to-classify punk.

Chella and the Charm in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Chris King & The Gutterballs w/Chella and The Charm and Silver Triplets
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Chris King & The Gutterballs is a band from Seattle whose flavor of Americana has more in common with CCR than the more modern country folk strain though that’s in the mix too. Chella and The Charm has for the past decade or so provided the kind of Americana that is an urban soundtrack to contemplating life and the sorts of issues and thoughts and feelings that drive an authentic existence and performed with the earthy energy of a rock and roll band. But even within that you can hear the irreverent humor and sharp social commentary and observations on human behavior with affection and insight.

Ultrabomb, photo from ultrabombmusic.com

Wednesday | 05.31
What: Ultra Bomb w/Black Dots, The Black Gloves and Shiverz
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Ultrabomb is a punk supergroup featuring Greg Norton of Hüsker Dü, Jamie Oliver of UK Subs and Finny McConnell of The Mahones. The music that’s been available appears to be a particularly vibrant style of power pop and fantastic vocal melodies that one might expect from a group of such punk luminaries.

Best Shows in Denver 07/26/19 – 07/31/19

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Thunderpussy performs at the Ogden Theatre on July 27. Photo by Jake Clifford

Friday | July 26

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Built To Spill at Treefort Music Fest 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Built to Spill – Keep It Like a Secret tour w/Orua and Dirt Russell
When: Friday, 07.26, 6 p.m.
Where: Mishawaka Amphitheater, Bellevue, CO
Why: Built To Spill bridged the gap between free improvisational rock, psychedelia and post-punk at a time in the 90s when so much of that was, barring Neil Young, was considered quaint unless you were a fan of wack, mid-90s alternative rock. Built to Spill was very different from some of that more mundane music because when it had album titles like Ultimate Alternative Wavers and songs called “Randy Described Eternity” and “I Would Hurt a Fly” the language of an underground, alternative culture with irreverent humor and an unabashed embrace of the weird and unconventional and out of step with mainstream normality was mincing no words but also not trying to alienate any potential comers. This year the group is touring for the twentieth anniversary of its monumental fourth album Keep It Like a Secret.

What: The Psychedelic Furs w/James and Dear Boy
When: Friday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Psychedelic Furs are apparently on the verge of giving us their first new album in nearly thirty years sometime in the next year or two. While the group did take a hiatus in the 90s its iconic 80s albums aged well because while the band had hits it never really made concessions to trends and Richard Butler’s scrappy yet soulful voice and thought-provoking lyrics and the band’s brooding melodies and expansively energetic live show reconciled the thoughts and emotions everyone has into memorable songs. Since the Furs reconvened in 2000 it may have been skating on its back catalog but its shows felt like they were channeling from a time when they first wrote the music and they didn’t waste our time by trotting out material unworthy of its earlier music. The career of Mancunian rock band James was almost in direct parallel with The Psychedelic Furs with its own history of high emotive and idiosyncratic rock songwriting that evolved considerably across time and recent performances displaying the verve and power of its early days as well.

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Anne Waldman circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Anne Waldman (w/Adam Baumeister and Roger Green), Wymond Miles, Jeff Suthers and Max & Toni
When: Friday, 07.26, 8-10:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: Anne Waldman is one of the surviving leading lights of the Beat Generation who is also currently involved with running the Naropa Institute (also Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics) of which she was a founder in 1974. Her poetry has a force and consciousness resonant with the rhythms of music and on this evening she will be joined by Meep Records head Adam Baumeister and experimental guitar composer Roger Green formerly of Idle Mind and The Czars. Also on the bill are Wymond Miles of The Fresh & Onlys in San Francisco and prior to that various Denver bands including Pinkku, and Jeff Suthers, the iconic guitarist of Pale Sun, Bright Channel, Volplane, Moonspeed, Pteranodon and other projects.

What: MDC/Verbal Abuse and Round Eye
When: Friday, 07.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: When you call your band Millions of Dead Cops in 1979 you’re already courting trouble. But MDC has also been taking it on the nose and writing hardcore classics with a righteously political edge from the beginning having penned songs about animal rights, LBGTQ issues, racial issues and invective against capitalism with humor and conviction. Lead singer Dave Dictor is proudly a weirdo who is confrontational with his anti-establishment stance in a creative and engaging and often humorous fashion.

What: Amon Tobin presents Two Fingers DJ Set w/Tsuruda, Keota, Seied and GTillDawn
When: Friday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Amon Tobin is a versatile composer whose electronic music runs the gamut of dance, jazz and the avant-garde. Tonight he is performing a DJ set so it’s hard to say exactly what he’ll throw into the mix but given his proclivity for imaginative production it won’t be entirely predictable yet a display of great taste.

Saturday | July 27

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Ankleplants circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Black Pistol Fire w/Thunderpussy
When: Saturday, 07.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Black Pistol Fire is a likable enough bluesy garage rock band. But the reason to go is to see opening act Thunderpussy who may in some ways share Black Pistol Fire’s affection for driving, blues-based punk riffs but its deft songwriting is a bit like if The Dead Weather took more than a few cues from T. Rex and the mirrored sides of Zeppelin’s hard rocking and contemplative, introspective songwriting. The Seattle-based group’s 2018 self-titled debut is more than a cut above the relatively recent spate of bands that are tapping into inspiration from hard rock’s 70s heyday by not merely trying to rock but not being willing to push the songwriting beyond the clichés. Thunderpussy is willing to get weird and take you into outer space with its music the way Heart, Cheap Trick and David Bowie were more than able to as well.

What: Anklepants and Electrocado
When: Saturday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Anklepants is what happens when a guy working in the special effects industry makes an outfit in which a phallus attached as the nose of an alien is a controller for the music which is very sophisticated and experimental dance music in the vein of more adventurous house or techno with elements borrowed from the full spectrum of modern dance styles. If you want to see something you’ll never forget this is the show to go and see because while the visual side of the project is entertaining and unusual enough the music stands on its own with no need for gimmicks—the costume is just a bonus over seeing some guy holding headphones on and waving one hand above his head to hype the crowd.

What: The Appleseed Cast w/Young Jesus and Weathered Statues
When: Saturday, 07.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: The Appleseed Cast might be the most well-known band out of the under celebrated Lawrence, Kansas music scene. Its own contribution to the development of 90s emo and beyond has been its exquisite, borderline dream pop that bridged the gap between midwestern emo and post-rock. Its luminous melodies and richly expressive and nuanced vocals have given the band a cross genre appeal. In 2019 The Appleseed Cast released its most recent album The Fleeting Light of Impermanence.

Monday | July 29

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Frank Iero, photo by Mitchel Wojcik

What: Frank Iero and the Future Violents w/Geoff Rickly
When: Monday, 07.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Frank Iero is probably known to most as the guitarist in My Chemical Romance. But seven years hence from that group’s dissolution Iero and his band the Future Violents released their album Barriers produced by Steve Albini. Iero sounds like he dug deep to reinvent himself a little for this new music as it feels raw and heartfelt and even confessional in a way that wasn’t as obvious as his work with MCR. When the songs aren’t brimming with effusive energy there is an introspective mood with music that demonstrate Iero’s keen ear for crafting rock songs with emotional and sonic nuance.

Tuesday | July 30

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Bad Cop / Bad Cop, photo courtesy Fat Wreck Chords

What: Bad Cop / Bad Cop w/Dog Party and Pity Party
When: Tuesday, 07.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Los Angeles-based punk band Band Cop/Bad Cop have a clever name but one that also reflects its politically and socially subversive lyrics. Its massive hooks and pop punk sound is a perfect vehicle for laying out ideas and concepts in a personal and accessible way without coming off preachy. With any luck the band will have a new album soon but its most recent record is 2017’s Warriors put on Fat Wreck Chords.

Wednesday | July 31

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Suzanne Vega, photo from suzannevega.com

What: Suzanne Vega w/Siobhan Wilson
When: Wednesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Suzanne Vega is perhaps best known by most people for her 80s singles “Luka” (an unabashed song about child abuse that made the Top 40) and “Left of Center” but her eclectic and varied career has included collaborating with Philip Glass for his weirdo jazz record Songs from Liquid Days and her own impressively broad range as a songwriter with a knack for writing thoughtful, literate songs that have long found a place in college radio and “modern rock” playlists and occupies a similar place in popular music as people like Robyn Hitchcock and Jane Siberry.