Best Shows in Denver November 2021

Julien Baker performs at Gothic Theatre on Nov 13, photo by Alyssa Gafkjen
Brandy Clark, photo by Chris Phelps

Wednesday | 11.03
What: Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.

Wolf Alice, photo by Jordan Hemmingway

Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04
What:
Wolf Alice w/The Blossom
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.

Black Dice, photo by Black Dice

Thursday | 11.04
What: Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.

In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.

Thursday | 11.04
What: The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 11.04
What: Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.

Band of Horses, photo by Stevie and Sarah Gee

Thursday | 11.04
What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.

Friday | 11.05
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.

Plack Blague in October 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.06
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.

Saturday | 11.06
What: Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Jess Farran

Saturday | 11.06
What: Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.

Uniform, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 11.08
What: Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.

Mamalarky, photo by Sara Cath

Tuesday | 11.09
What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.

Silverstein, photo by Juan Angel

Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12
What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre
Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.

Friday | 11.12
What: Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.

Phony Ppl, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 11.12
What: Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Saturday | 11.13
What: Julien Baker w/Dehd
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.

Saturday | 11.13
What: Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.

Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

Saturday | 11.13
What: Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Roxy on Broadway
Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.

Monday | 11/15
What: Surfbort — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Coast (Fort Collins)
Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.

Monday | 11.15
What: Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.

Paul Jacobs, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.

Black Marble in May 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Black Marble w/Voight
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.

Wednesday | 11.17
What: Caribou w/Jessy Lanza
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.

Kraak & Smaak, photo by Michael Mees

Wednesday | 11/24
What: Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 11.26
What: The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.

Friday | 11.26
What: Baroness
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Primitive Man in April 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.27
What: Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.

Best Shows in Denver 1/10/18 – 1/16/18

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 10, 2019

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Nekrofilth, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Nekrofilth album release w/Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster
When: Thursday, 01.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Nekrofilth releases its new album Worm Ritual tonight at a show with heavy psychedelic bands Phallic Meditation and Keef Duster. Nekrofilth’s sound is more akin to classic early thrash and black metal. On the new record the band does cover “Poison” by Venom, after all. Like the latter and Slayer, Nekrofilth has a playful quality to its aggression and ripping guitar work. Song titles like “Vomit Dog,” “They Took My Skin,” “Ready to Defile” and “Severed Eyes” suggest a healthy sense of the viscerally absurd with an unironic joy in the cartoonishly horrific the way one might enjoy the gnarliest B horror movie. Fans of blackened thrash rejoice, Nekrofilth has what you’re looking for.

Who: Random Temple w/Thistledown
When: Thursday, 01.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Buzzard
Why: “Rhythm & Folk” band Thistledown will perform with Random Temple’s more production-oriented electronic project under his own name.

Friday | January 11, 2019

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Product Lust circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Product Lust album release show w/Goon, Herse, Candy Apple
When: Friday, 01.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Product Lust’s feral and driving 2018 album Year of the Rat is being celebrated tonight with a now rare live show as vocalist Kat Salvaggio is attending school out of Colorado. The seething post-punk band’s wiry energy fits in well with weirder hardcore and punk and thus this bill with Goon, Herse and Candy Apple is an opportunity to see bands that have punk of some stripe as their root but who are taking that spark in interesting directions.

Who: Lazarus Horse
When: Friday, 01.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Lazarus Horse is the band that comes about when someone with good taste in music and good creative instincts writes a bunch of experimental rock music that doesn’t seem obviously influenced by anything else but creative flights of fancy, escaping to daydreams while doing meaningless work as a tool for staying sane in a civilization that’s grinding its best people into the dirt. It’s the soundtrack to that internal rebellion that becomes contagious.

Saturday | January 12, 2019

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Chromadrift’s Drew Miller as Brother Saturn circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents: Chromadrift album release w/Gold Trash and Bowshock
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Chromadrift’s Cloudless Mind is the bright, ethereal flow of textured melodies that eases the freeze of winter. Fans of IDM and more abstract post-rock will appreciate Drew Miller’s blend of processed guitar, live synths and sequencing. Though the album dropped on January 3, this will be your first chance to see this music live in the new year. Also performing is noisy electroclash duo Gold Trash and downtempo jazz improv group Bowshock.

Who: NightWraith album release w/Glacial Tomb, BleakHeart
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: NightWraith’s self-titled, debut full length is coming out on color vinyl. The Denver-based group’s left of center mix of folky black metal, thrash and psychedelic doom is steeped in pastoral mythology.

Who: e-scapes, Zealot and The Far Stairs
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This’ll be probably the first indie rock show worth checking out in Aurora, Colorado since The Masculine organized one in 2009 at the old Other Side Arts space in downtown. The People’s Building is also downtown and across the street from Aurora Fox Theater. Zealot includes former members of The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer, Ideal Fathers and other bands most people haven’t heard of but should check out. The Far Stairs is a band that makes strange music sound more catchy and accessible than it has any right to.

Who: Pink Hawks, Atomga, Roka Hueka
When: Saturday, 01.12, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird
Why: The local Afrobeat band all-star line-up.

Who: Pineross EP release w/Lady Gang
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Ubisububi Room
Why: Kevin Larkin of Chimney Choir fame is releasing his most recent EP Esplanade at this show in the extra intimate and cozy Ubisububi Room underneath the Thin Man and St. Mark’s. Lady Gang sounds like a full band but is just Jen Korte making maximum creative use of a loop station to augment her already considerable talents as a singer-songwriter.

Who: Luke Vibert, Seied and Kanyon Walker
When: Saturday, 01.12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Luke Vibert has long been on the forefront of modern experimental electronic dance music in various forms. Fans of Dilla, Flying Lotus and Blockhead will find a lot to like in Vibert.

Sunday | January 13, 2019

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Crushed!?, photo by @scenesplitter

Who: Crushed!? W/The Uglys, Tides, Stonewall BLVD and Arctobog
When: Sunday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Originally from the much smaller nearby town of Belen, Crushed!? is now based out of Albuquerque. Its post-hardcore sound has more in common with the likes of a more melodic At the Drive-In or Touché Amoré than the more screamo end of that music. Initially the music reminds one a bit of the great punk bands of the late 90s and early 2000s who adopted a bit of the math rock thing. But its rhythms are more inventive and wide-ranging like something one might have expected out of 90s DC and other East Coast rock like Versus, Helium and The Dismemberment Plan. The group’s 2018 album Sins of the Father is refreshingly difficult pin with a specific genre designation.

Monday | January 14, 2019

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Entrancer (right) with Docile Rottweiler (left) at Synesthesia 2014. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: R.Ariel, Kafari, Entrancer and Voight
When: Monday, 01.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: DATELINE
Why: This event is a combination of touring art installation courtesy and musical performances at DATELINE art gallery. R.Ariel’s new album Where You Are is an emotionally uplifting album of ethereal sounds and buoyant flow of bright tones. Kafari’s 2018 album Beholding is a masterpiece of minimalism like it was composed while somehow spending contemplative mornings underwater and absorbing a deep sense of peace. Entrancer has been spending years honing the ability to explore whatever directions his mastery of synthesis and beatmaking takes him. His 2018 album Decline Vol. 1 is true soundscaping that draws you into a sonic journey that while impressionistic and composed of deep layers of tone and texture conveys a sense of place physically and emotionally. Is the “Decline” of the title something to dread or something to greet as the inevitable cycle of life and death? The album offers no pat answers but it certain captures the ineffable moments of decline of a phase of one’s life, of civilizations and of all authoritarian orders. Voight may finally play a deep house/techno set. If not, it’ll be, by far, the loudest project of the night with its fiery and intense industrial post-punk shoegaze.

Who: Solos/Duos – Denver Avant Garde Music Society
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This night, long held at other venues over the years, has re-emerged at Thought//Forms gallery. You never know what you’ll see but this night you’ll also get to see a set from Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band Animal / object.

Who: Freq Boutique
When: Monday, 01.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This reoccurring event organized by electronic equipment company WMD, this night is sort of an open mic for synthesizer enthusiasts. This night’s festivities may include a set from hip-hop/experimental electronic dance artist Strange Powers.

Tuesday | January 15, 2019

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Mick Jenkins, photo by Sam Schmieg

Who: Mick Jenkins w/Kari Faux
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Mick Jenkins 2018 sophomore album Pieces of a Man is a bit of a tribute to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album of the same name. Like Scott-Heron, Jenkins offers snapshots of the world around him in words with musical accompaniment to set the vibe. The organization of the album and the experience of listening to it is something like a hip jazz and poetry night. The opening track is called “Heron Flow” as a nod to Gil and his record’s opening track, the influential song poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Jenkins and his collaborators evoke the feel of a hazy after hours jazz club across the record with a sense of blending old school production and present day wordsmithing. Jenkins makes fairly mundane life experiences seem mythic and cool as Scott-Heron did in his day. Also on this bill is one of modern hip-hop’s greatest talents, Kari Faux. Her EPs, partly boosted by music appearing in the comedy series Insecure, combine a rebellious swagger with an otherworldly and mysterious quality – a rarity in music generally.

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Ensiferum, photo by Andy Whittle

Who: Ensiferum w/Septicflesh and Arsis
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Helsinki, Finland’s Ensiferum is a melodic death metal band in the vein of the Gothenburg style but on the more orchestral end. Its use of acoustic guitars and folk structure and progressions give its music an expansive feel that evokes images of standing at the helm of one’s longboat charging toward unsuspecting European enclaves in the ninth century. Fans of Enslaved may enjoy Ensiferum’s similarly joyful performances.

Who: Supersuckers w/The Hangmen and Reno Divorce
When: Tuesday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Supersuckers started playing its brand of fuzzy cowpunk in Tucson, Arizona in 1988 before moving to Seattle in 1989 near the beginning of when more than a few music journalists from beyond the Pacific Northwest were starting to take not of happenings in the Emerald City’s underground. The band never made the big time the way the grunge bands everyone has heard of did but it has been able to carve out a career for itself and its wiseacre, intentionally lowbrow humor. Who else would start off their 1992 album on Sub Pop, The Smoke of Hell, with a song called “Coattail Rider” at the peak of the alternative rock explosion? Such chutzpah must continue to be honored. Oh yeah, the trio’s 2018 album, out on Acetate Records, is called Suck It. That the underground rock world has come back around to the sound Supersuckers perfected three decades ago is surely not lost on the band as a choice bit of irony. The song “History Of Rock n’ Roll” in which Eddie Spaghetti sings about how Supersuckers, the greatest band in the world is a footnote in the history of rock ‘n roll suggests they’re well aware.

Best Shows in Denver 11/8/18 – 11/14/18

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Why? performs tonight, November 8, 2018, at The Gothic. Photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | November 8, 2018

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Y La Bamba, photo by Steffannie Walk

Who: Why? plays Alopecia w/Lala Lala
When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: 2008’s Alopecia signaled the break between Yoni Wolf’s solo work as Why? and the band of the same name. As with its 2005 predecessor Elephant Eyelash, Alopecia included contributions from Wolf’s former cLOUDDEAD bandmates Doseone and Odd Nosdam. But Alopecia opened up even more frank lyrics and surreal soundscapes from Yoni Wolf and his brother Josiah and signaled a true synthesis of hip-hop and lo-fi indie rock in a way few other artists had accomplished up to that time except for maybe hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, Aesop Rock and experimental music weirdos such as Black Moth Super Rainbow and Karl Blau. Why? took that sensibility and made it into something grand and, to use a now overused term, epic—private musings given a cinematic presentation. It might be argued that later Why? albums are better or achieve greater heights of artistic achievement but Alopecia is the bedrock upon which they were built and remains one of Wolf’s finest records in an already impressive career.

Who: Morlox album release w/Demoncassettecult, Juniordeer, Flesh Buzzard, Housekeys
When: Thursday, 11.8, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Patrick Urn established his production and noise-making bonafides as a member of industrial band In Ether in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since then he has spent time in various cities in America including Seattle and Pittsburgh where he made dark ambient music, hip-hop beats and soundscape noise in projects like Herpes Hideaway and Syphilis Sauna. In the mid-2010s Urn returned to Denver and one might say quietly re-established himself as a producer of note among those in the know in the underground. Having worked with, among other artists, Church Fire, Urn demonstrated a mastery of sampling as a tool for composition in both the recorded and live environment. With his latest album Report From Sector zx88z out on Glasss Records, Urn worked with multiple noteworthy noise and hip-hop artists to fill out songs that were already strong, making them even more fascinating. R A R E B Y R D $, ERASERHEAD FUCKERS and Sheetmetal Skin Graft as well as HarmOny ov thee FYRE formerly of political punk band Dangerous Nonsense all shine on the record and give the songs an accessibility not always found with artists that are associated with noise and industrial music. But Urn’s music making could never be said to be limited to genre conventions of any kind. Check out this show if you’re into seeing someone pushing the envelope of electronic music because it may be the last time to see Urn perform some of these songs before he moves on to his next sonic adventure.

Who: The Orb w/Mental 69
When: Thursday, 11.8, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: The Orb basically took the electronic and production ideas then influencing and synthesizing into various manifestations of what became rave music in the 90s and created a style of ambient dub and house that influenced IDM, trip hop and anyone making electronic dance music with an adventurous bent in the 90s and beyond. The duo’s latest release is 2018’s No Sounds Are Out of Bounds. If you’re thinking of going, these guys put forth sounds that transcend the usual two guys with headphones nodding their heads on stage sort of thing. Their music will reorient your brain in good ways getting to experience it on a loud sound system.

Who: Y La Bamba w/Don Chicharrón
When: Thursday, 11.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process. Y La Bamba recently released a seven inch of “Mujeres” b/w “Paloma Negra” and will drop the new full length, also titled Mujeres, in February also on Tender Loving Empire.

Friday | November 8, 2018

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Glacial Tomb, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Who: Glacial Tomb album release w/Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness
When: Friday, 11.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Glacial Tomb recently released its self-titled debut full-length comprised of seven songs of relentless blackened death metal driven by powerful yet nuanced percussion. It’s primal stuff that sounds like it was inspired by a not so far future that isn’t post-apocalypse so much as post-collapse of human world civilization as we know it. Guitars as insectoid sirens, vocals as feral pronouncements of the remnants of humanity clinging to twisted versions of earth-based occult mysticism in the attempt to garner a few more years through brutal rituals and quests to find what’s left of the planet where life itself, and not just human, might flourish again while the rest of the planet works through the toxins making it all but uninhabitable. At least that’s what the record sounds like if you let your mind wander a little. Joining the trio tonight are other local extreme metal stars in Call of the Void and Saddle of Southern Darkness.

Saturday | November 10, 2018

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Special Guest featuring The Milk Blossoms, Eyebeams and Wheelchair Sports Camp
When: Saturday, 11.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Next Stage Gallery
Why: Special Guest is a series featuring some of Denver’s most interesting and innovative musical projects. The Milk Blossoms is a band whose amalgam of outsider pop, lo-fi R&B and vivid emotional recreations is always surprisingly deeply evocative. The Milk Blossoms is a psychedelic indie pop group with songs that deftly and thoughtfully navigate the vagaries of one’s own mind, illuminate nuanced perspectives on relationships with others and society in general and explore evolving concepts of identity. Wheelchair Sports Camp is a brilliant meeting of hip-hop, electronic production and avant-garde jazz. Also, vocals and songwriting from hopefully future Denver mayor/Colorado governor Kalyn Heffernan.

Who: Den Mother w/Klaus Dafoe and Bryon Parker
When: Saturday, 11.10, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: This lo-fi pop/rock show includes Bryon Parker of noisy post-punk band Simulators (he recently released a collaborative single with Jad Fair whose solo career is noteworthy on its own but who was also a member of foundational indie pop band Half Japanese and may be known for his album with Daniel Johnston). It is also the final show from indie rock band Den Mother whose own Misun Oh is leaving Denver for Ohio after living in the Mile High City for over a decade. She was once married to cartoonist/visual artist/songwriter John Porcellino of King Cat Comics and Stories fame (she is depicted in several issues). But she also contributed to Denver’s underground music and art community as a gifted practitioner of Chinese medicine and as a musician and supporter of the local music world in her own right as a member of French Chemists and other projects.

Who: SPELLS, Eyes and Ears (tape releases), Great American House Fire (tape release) and Hooper
When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Good thing SPELLS says 80% is good enough so that the other bands that aren’t such a party punk band can shine. Eyes and Ears comes off of de facto hiatus with a new release and a reminder that pop and loosely conceived punk can be fun if the people in the band don’t take it too seriously. Great American House Fire also releases a tape this night with its unique take on the kind of music that came out of late 90s emo, post-hardcore and Americana. Hooper might be considered pop punk but it’s a bit too gritty for that even if the anthemic and glittery melodic hardcore flavor of some of its sounds suggest the pop punk connection.

Who: Deca w/Felix Fast4ward and Stay Tuned
When: Saturday, 11.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Leon Gallery
Why: Deca from New York is operating in that realm of hip-hop that uses samples that give the music a downtempo vibe with a touch of the otherworldly. Like maybe Deca drew some inspiration from, of course, J Dilla and Blockhead. The 2018 album Flux is instrumental album that works incredibly well on its own as a sound environment form of storytelling but also well suited to someone else’s words. Like-minded Denver acts Felix Fast4ward (whose own beats cross effortless between the realms of hip-hop and deep house) and Stay Tuned whose songs are socially critical but playful and powerful.

Sunday | November 11, 2018

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EyeHateGod circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cro-Mags w/EyeHateGod
When: Sunday, 11.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: This double bill of two legends of punk and heavy music is interesting given the backgrounds of members of both bands. John Joseph of Cro-Mags grew up in foster care in New York City, Mike Williams of EyeHateGod got to experience life after both his parents died when he was a child and he left home in his mid-teens and occasionally spending time homeless. Cro-Mags were one of the most important and influential of the New York City hardcore scene known for a kind of tough guy image that was combined with ideas about self-defense, physical as well as psychological, in a hostile world and a clear need for camaraderie with like-minded types in a real, human way that isn’t in step with stoic, tough guy machismo. EyeHateGod’s records, coming out starting in 1990, had songs about self-loathing, despair at humankind’s collective self-destructive behaviors including cruelty toward one another. Williams’ words so insightful about how those self-destructive tendencies in the human psyche manifest on the personal level continued to evolve and refine its critique not just of society and the self but also of the bases of cultural norms themselves. But never abstract, always accessibly personal and vulnerable.

Who: Endless Nameless, Giardia, Feigning, Masons
When: Sunday, 11.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Endless, Nameless is a jazz-inflected math rock band from Denver. Fans of Covet should check them out. Giardia is a jazzy experimental metal band. Masons make the kind of post-rock that bridges the gap between breezier shoegaze and the more introspective side of Modest Mouse. Feigning will bring something a bit darker with its noisy, menacing darkwave.

Tuesday | November 13, 2018

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Behemoth, photo by Grzegorz Gołębiowski

Who: Behemoth w/At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room
When: Tuesday, 11.13, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Behemoth formed in Gdańsk, Poland in 1991 shortly after the nation re-established itself as a democratic republic after decades of domination by the then splintering U.S.S.R.. It was a time when black metal and death metal were cohering in the European underground and a theatric sensibility informed how that music was performed throughout Scandinavia and formerly communist states. Initially, the band had a sound that was not unlike that of its peers, a kind of taking thrash and death metal and either pushing it to a brutal, forbidding extreme or giving it an epic, almost orchestral, grandeur. Behemoth did a little of both and injected the music with occult and fantastical/mythological imagery and themes—which it has continued to do up to and including its 2018 album I Loved You at Your Darkest. But the latter is arguably the band’s best album at times sounding like it synthesized a Napalm Death-esque assault with a sonic transcendence, creating a contrast that the band uses with great dynamic affect across the whole record. That you also get to see At The Gates, the Swedish melodic/Gothenburg death metal legends that came up at the same time as Behemoth in the early 90s, and Wolves in the Throne Room, the Olympia, Washington-based black metal band whose own sound is informed by the natural environment of their home region and synth heavy Krautrock, is more than just a bonus but probably the best heavy music line up in that vein for the rest of the year.

Wednesday | November 14, 2018

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Rubblebucket, photo by Rob Abelow

Who: Rubblebucket w/Thick Paint and Toth
When: Wednesday, 11.14, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Rubblebucket’s 2018 album Sun Machine is a powerful and intimate depiction of survival and the drive to create something meaningful in the most trying of circumstances. Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth had been a couple but had split while making the new record and in there too Traver struggled with and overcame a bout with cancer and Toth came to terms with his own challenges with alcoholism. Those kinds of pressures often break bands and relationships of all kinds. But the bond between the two artists persisted and they found a way to articulate difficult truths with a poetic truth and its typically eclectic and dynamic songwriting. This may not be the band at its yet-to-be-attained peak but it certainly is a high point for Brooklyn duo.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Mirror Fears, Lady of Sorrows and Hot Slag
When: Wednesday, 11.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday includes performances from ambient/dance/noise phenom Mirror Fears. Lately she’s been performing some visionary deep house style music that isn’t a huge departure from her already fascinating work in the realm of emotionally-charged darkwave. Lady of Sorrows is darkwave/dream pop with operatic vocals. Hot Slag has similarly dusky soundscapes but more in the vein of a compelling crossbreeding of IDM and weirdo hip-hop.

Best Shows in Denver 10/5/17 – 10/11/17

Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag, photo by Marie Lin

 

October has long traditionally been the busiest month for shows coming to Denver and keeping up with them much less catching everything you’d like to witness is challenging even if money and time aren’t big considerations. Here are not even close to all the cool concerts in the Mile High City and the surrounding area through October 11, 2017.

Who: Tennyson w/Photay
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tennyson is a duo from Canada that seems to have found a way to fully synthesize jazz, IDM, pop and dub techno into lush pop songs that get under your skin and into your psyche. Difficult to compare them to anyone other than maybe artists on the Ghostly International imprint because so many of them are breaking conventions in general as well. If Lusine, Thundercat and Boards of Canada collaborated on a pop album it might sound like Tennyson but Tennyson’s beautiful, finely crafted compositions don’t feel like a real nod to anyone else, a true rarity in modern music. Its new EP, Uh Oh!, is a perfect introduction to what this brother and sister project has to offer.

Who: 1865668232 (Ithaca), Distance Research, Sunk Cost, Matt Struck, Hypnotic Turtle simulcast
When: Thursday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: Musical Mayhem is a bi-weekly event at The Skylark Lounge hosted by Claudia Woodman who also does Weird Wednesdays at 3 Kings Tavern.This week it’s noise and ambient night with harsh noise sculptor extraordinaire, Jonathan Cash, performing as Sunk Cost. Distance Research is the analog/modular synth project of sound and visual artist Sean Faling. The guy has more synths at his place than anyone but maybe Gabriel Temeyosa of Kuxaan-Sum and he crafts his sets around various arrangements of gear meaning every show is a little different but always excellent. 1865668232 is based out of Ithaca, New York and traveling with a show in Denver of sound collage atmospheres.

Who: Glacial Tomb, Nightwraith, Space in Time, Urn
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sort of a doom and stoner rock/psychedelic metal night at the Hi-Dive with Glacial Tomb which includes members of Khemmis and Cult of the Lost Cause. Urn is basically a new version of the great Denver sludge psych band Skully Mammoth. Nightwraith is a melodic doom band whose recent self-titled EP is ripe with crunchy riffing and post-hardcore-esque black metal vocals. Space in Time is what happens when talented musicians from punk, country and pop bands update trippy heavy rock from the 70s like Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep.

Who: Palehound w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ellen Kempner somehow takes the kind of folk-inflected, confessional indie rock song and injects it with new life through a compelling and moving vulnerability and poetic honesty. In some ways her music is reminiscent of a modern day Melanie—well crafted yet raw songwriting. The 2017 album, A Place I’ll Always Go, has more of a full band sound and filled out with more electronic soundscapes but without losing any of the sense Kempner’s revealing her deepest loves, fears and wishes.

Who: Ghost Tapes album release of Mad Props w/Fed Rez, Sur Ellz and DJ Soulrane
When: Friday, 10.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghost Tapes if finally releasing its debut album, Mad Props. The quintet’s sound is somewhere between soul and smooth jazz minus any cheese factor. Rather, its music is the sort of thing you might expect to hear if you stopped in to some hip coffee shop off the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the house band doing its music and poetry residency outside its usual gig of touring the country in a successful indie rock band. Perhaps that’s a tortured metaphor but there is something intimate and beautiful about a Ghost Tapes performance that will fit in well with Syntax Physic Opera. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s best experimental hip-hop projects: the more jazz-inflected Fed Rez and the lushly loop/beat driven Sur Ellz.

Who: Sympathy F and JL Universe
When: Friday, 10.06, 8 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Sympathy F is one of the longest running bands in Denver. It would be too facile to say the band is merely dream pop because it incorporates singer Elizabeth Rose’s jazz chops honed in her solo side project and the other players make rock music with the fluid dynamics of a improv jazz band with a dreamlike quality that draws you into the group’s storytelling. Really, Sympathy F’s music recreates the feel of Denver pre-LoDo when there was a shadowy, gritty and haunting yet comfortable vibe to a place where while there was potential danger around every corner there was also a sense of wide openness and untapped possibility. The band’s next album, its third in 26 years, is due out later this year.

Who: Sheer Mag w/Tenement and American Culture
When: Saturday, 10.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the most anticipated punk tours of recent years not being undertaken by an established name includes two of the genre’s most acclaimed acts, Sheer Mag and Tenement. Sheer Mag might be compared to the Minutemen for current punk not because the bands sound anything alike. But because both had/have musicians with chops who aren’t afraid to let that show in the songwriting out of some misguided adherence to standard punk aesthetics. Both also were unabashed admirers of older music many of their peers think/thought wack. Vocalist Tina Halladay sounds like Janis Joplin fronting a garage rpunk band that listened to a lot of James Gang and The Allman Brothers. Should be completely dumb but it really works and the live band is a force to be reckoned with. Tenement sounds like a snotty power pop band with a raw melodic sense reminiscent of maybe Teenage Fanclub or pre-1983 The Replacements. Local openers American Culture should be as known as the other bands on the bill on a national scale but its own rawly melodic and glittery take on punk might be too big a leap for some to accept in the same realm of music. But its own impassioned performances speak otherwise and the lyrics about being an eternal outsider in a world of fake sophistication and a yearning for authentic choices for living a life worth living are clearly the stuff of which great punk songs are made.

Who: Ought w/US Weekly and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Ought’s noisy, Fall-esque, whorling melodies reminiscent of Television driven by steady, hypnotic rhythms set it apart from a lot of other post-punk bands of the current decade. Was it aware that Protomartyr had got off the ground in Detroit three years before its own formation? That Women had developed its Wire-esque, spiky yet deeply atmospheric aesthetic before that? Hardly matters as Ought sounds like neither band but there is a strong resonance between the music of all those bands. With Ought there is also a sense of urgency to its music and an ability to draw you into its gritty, dreamlike compositions before you know you’re under their spell. Austin-based no-wave/post-hardcore/noise rock band US Weekly may be difficult to track down using conventional search engine methods but it’ll be worth it. Because these guys are a bit like Flipper on fast mode. Denver’s Male Blonding garnered some influence from Canadian post-punk of the 2000s but its rhythm section takes the music into a different realm of sound. Coupled with the group’s imaginative dual guitar work and Noah Simons’ commanding vocals, Male Blonding is simply carving its own path and not easily planted in the realms of post-punk or indie rock.

Who: Big Thief w/Little Wings and Mega Bog
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Big Thief’s new record, Capacity, is a pleasant and thoughtful enough listen. But Adrianne Lenker’s tender vocal delivery is what makes the songs because even if she’s conventionally melodic she brings a sense of melancholic yearning that’s pretty compelling. Definitely for fans of Jenny Lewis solo or during her tenure with Rilo Kiley. Mega Bog has been one of America’s best kept musical secrets for too long. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mega Bog now resides in New York City where it now doubt rubbed shoulders with Big Thief. Singer/songwriter Erin Birgy and her bandmates aren’t really working in a genre unless you count “good drum.” Its latest record, Happy Together, is an eclectic affair that will remind some people of Laurie Anderson (especially “London” to Anderson’s “Blue Lagoon”). It’s part jazz and part seemingly lifting otherworldly atmospherics from Birgy’s dreams.

Who: Worriers, Thin Lips, Cheap Perfume, Lawsuit Models
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Worriers are the bouncy, melodic punk band of former The Measure (SA) guitarist and singer Lauren Denitzio. The band’s 2015 album, Imaginary Life, produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, is a charming mixture of irreverent self-examination cataloging life’s downbeats, playfully pointed social commentary and genuinely clever wordplay. Cheap Perfume shares Denitzio’s sense of humor, politics and energy and earlier this year the band debuted the video for a song called “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis).” And given Richard Spencer’s recent turn with a ten minute or so protest revisiting Charlottesville it’s difficult for any normal person to disagree with the sentiment even if you’re not inclined to act on the song literally.

Who: Touché Amoré w/Single Mothers, Gouge Away, Muscle Beach
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Touché Amoré may have kind of a silly name but its melodic post-hardcore while still heavy hitting has a kind of uplifting quality at times that has more in common with late 90s emo. But it’s all part of the same punk world so of course several bands have overlapping musical interests, Touché Amoré just integrated it all as well as expansive, shimmering atmospheric passages that sound like post-rock angels hovering at the edges of its core songs. And it’s kind of a big deal for 2000s post-hardcore fans that London, Ontario post-hardcore legends Single Mothers are playing in Denver. No downside on the bill including Denver’s own Muscle Beach who have found a truly sweet spot between metallic post-hardcore and fluid noise rock.

Who: Haujobb w/Blackcell and DJ Niq V
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Haujobb came about at time when there was a great deal of overlap between underground electronic music genres with Meat Beat Manifesto synthesizing EBM, techno and early drum and bass, The Orb creating dance music too weird for most dance clubs, Rabbit in the Moon embodying trance and house and indulging creative breakbeats. Haujobb’s own music was more grounded in EBM and industrial and darker than most of the music that would provide the soundtracks to raves and night-long parties in Ibiza even though its methods of creation wasn’t so far apart from the “electronic” acts who were its peers. Blackcell is one of Denver’s longest running bands in general and certainly out of the electronic and industrial music world going back to its origins in the early 90s when the project was more in the vein of noise with tape collages and samples alongside its synthesizer experiments. These days the duo uses mostly hardware synths, sequencers, drum machines and samplers to craft its richly layered, entrancing soundscapes.

 

Who: The Church w/The Heliosequence
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Many rock bands get stuck in a perpetual revisiting of teenage themes, hedonism and concerns bespeaking of a state of stunted personal development. The Church has never really been that band. Before becoming famous in the U.S. in the wake of the release of its 1988 album Starfish and hit single “Under the Milky Way,” The Church had been crafting albums of exquisite beauty that took the pop and rock song format in interesting directions both sonically and thematically. There was a literary quality to the band’s lyrics that more than hinted at thoughtfulness in the songwriting that aimed at a poetic understanding of life and human interactions beyond the rote clichés of art aiming at little more than entertainment. And with The Church it wasn’t purely intellectual or of the head and its powerful live shows became and remain a powerful shared experience of artist and audience alike. In 2014, The Church released arguably its best record to date with Further/Deeper. The title was a pitch perfect summary of an album in which the band was finding itself having to reinvent itself after the departure of founding guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper but also to continue making relevant music that wasn’t a retread of past glory—something, surprisingly, The Church has never really done, each album being a worthwhile listen. Futher/Deeper was also one of the few rock records written by musicians from an adult perspective without sounding jaded or safe. In 2017 The Church released its latest album Man Woman Life Death Infinity. The Helio Sequence probably gets lumped in with modern shoegaze and dream pop but the band was doing fascinating experiments with electronic music and an expanded sense of psychedelic music early in its career. These days the band is perfecting affecting soundscapes and lyrics that reach well beyond the realm of the mundane. A perfect pairing of bands in a year when that’s not been such a rarity.

Who: The Mercury Tree, Hamster Theatre and Neil Haverstick
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Portland, Oregon’s The Mercury Tree is proof that progressive rock need not be over intellectualized as its layered atmospheres and rhythms, intricate in composition, are a heady and expansive listening experience. And that band would be worthy enough of attending the show but also a rare Denver appearance by Denver avant-garde rock/jazz legends Hamster Theatre and microtonal guitar wizard Neil Haverstick.

Who: GZA w/Low Hanging Fruit
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The GZA at The Fox? Sure enough. As a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has exerted a broad influence on much of the hip-hop to have come along since. But GZA’s lyrical brilliance paired with RZA’s production has impacted some of the most interesting electronic music made since the release of his landmark 1995 album Liquid Swords. That album transcended genre and its echoes can be heard in much of alternative and underground hip-hop today.