What:Rubedo’s Independence Day V w/Matt Embree (member RX Bandits, Dispatch and The Sound of Animals Fighting), Poor Bodhi, DJ Reubot When: Thursday, 07.04, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: For five years now Rubedo has been doing an Independence Day show that includes friends and comrades in music and cultural resistance. This year includes Matt Embree, frontman of eclectic prog/punk/psych band Rx Bandits who is also a member of post-hardcore supergroup The Sound of Animals Fighting. Rubedo itself is no stranger to being difficult to pigeonhole. All its players have a degree of respectable musical chops and adept at mixing improvised sections in the songs based on the mood of the moment. One might call it a prog band because of the direct influence of The Mars Volta but also psychedelic rock and indirectly the musical thinking and techniques of hip-hop even though its all live instrumentation. The storytelling and themes of Rubedo songs somehow also manage to be positive and aimed toward a better future and celebrating the present without coming off as insincere.
Friday | July 5
What:Pictureplane w/OptycNerd and DEBR4H When: Friday, 07.05, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pictureplane returns to Denver where he first made waves in the underground beyond his home state of New Mexico. As one of the residents of Rhinoceropolis he was a real ambassador to experimental electronic dance bands in Denver and far beyond, evangelizing the DIY ethic and Rhinoceropolis and Monkey Mania to the places far and wide including performances in Russia. His musical style has evolved over the years and recently included more industrial textures and sounds but at his core, he’s an idiosyncratic artist who is trying to push his aesthetic in interesting directions.
Saturday | July 6
What:Get Your Eyes Swoll: Last Humans, Tears to Li6ht and Gothsta When: Saturday, 07.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of GYES features dark chillwave artist Tears to Li6ht, lush Americana band Last Humans and Gothsta which is series host Claudia Woodman in her guise as a weirdo Goth pop star known for bizarre covers and even stranger originals.
What:Angry Hand of God, Never Kenezzard, Flat Earth When: Saturday, 07.06, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: A doom/stoner rock show featuring the now active again Angry Hand of God which experienced a bit of a heyday in the late 2000s before Denver metal, with a few notable exceptions, started attracting much attention outside of Colorado. Also on the bill is Never Kenezzard whose mixture of sludge rock, prog and psychedelia pushes the boundaries of heavy rock into innovative territory.
What:Short Shorts album release, Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, Safekeeper and Florea When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Short Shorts is a four-piece from Denver who will release their new EP Hang-Ups tonight. Somewhere betwixt surf rock and the kind of punk with a footing in 2010’s garage rock, Short Shorts have a sound that fans of the likes of Tacocat and Bully might enjoy. Echoes of 90s K Records bands. Also with song titles like “Jumbotron Debutate” and “Quantum Entanglement” the band’s pop songs are clearly a cut above and more thoughtful than one might expect from a band with a name like Short Shorts. On the bill are like-minded acts like the dark Americana band Florea and Sour Boy, Bitter Girl. The latter has a real knack for taking down and out sensibilities and turning them into earnest and thought-provoking pop songs with a literary flair.
What:Heart Bones feat. Har Mar Superstar and Sabrina Ellis w/Good Fuck and Mark Mallman When: Saturday, 07.06, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Two powerhouse performers in the same soulful synth pop band? Har Mar Superstar has long been putting on the most absurdly entertaining performances mixing soul and punk an dance music while Sabrina Ellis has been the animated and powerful frontwoman of A Giant Dog. Also, Good Fuck, the latest project from Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse, is like an experimental electronic German pop band but more like ADULT. than electroclash. Its 2019 self-titled album is a moody and spacious set of dark, noisy, techno industrial dance music.
Sunday | July 7
What:Priests w/Olivia Neutron John When: Sunday, 07.07, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Fiercely DIY band Priests releases its what might be described as post-punk glam through its own label Sister Polygon Records. With the latter the group has helped to advocate for like-minded artists critical of the oligarchy like Downtown Boys and Snail Mail. It’s latest record is The Seduction of Kansas. Theatrical and dynamic, Priests make its flamboyantly strange aesthetic accessible. Olivia Neutron John is the dark, post-punk electroclash type of solo project of Anna Nasty whose 2019 self-titled debut is driven by brooding and stark low end and plenty of punk attitude.
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Sunday, 07.07, 5:30 p.m. Where: Hudson Gardens Why: Melissa Etheridge is a cultural icon in various ways and beyond being a very public figure in the LGBTQ community going back decades. Before coming out in public in 1993, Etheridge had hit records on college and AOR radio with her 1988 self-titled debut, 1989’s Brave and Crazy and Never Enough from 1992. Etheridge came across as thoughtful, soulful, gritty and she had a kind of gravitas that relatively new artists don’t yet possess. Her songwriting held an appeal that transcended any specific considerations of sexuality and gender and her music even crossed over into the more adventurous radio stations that typically played classic rock mixed with some modern hits. Her first big hits came with “Come to My Window” and “I’m The Only One” from the 1993 album Yes I Am. In 2019 Etheridge released her latest record The Medicine Show—a strong showing of songwriting prowess and performance for an artist this far into a prolific career. It’s almost a hard rock record with Etheridge sounding more confident than ever and heartfelt odes to life and loss.
Monday | July 8
What:Melissa Etheridge When: Monday, 07.08, 6:30 p.m. Where: Chautauqua Auditorium Why: See above for Melissa Etheridge. This show is in the uniquely arranged Chautauqua Auditorium which is a bit like seeing a show in a very large barn with good acoustics.
Tuesday | July 9
What:Bad Religion w/Dave Hause & The Mermaid When: Tuesday, 07.09, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Bad Religion has long been reliable for having something to say in its music across its nearly forty year career and its latest album, 2019’s Age of Unreason, is no different. It’s fifteen tracks of anthemic, melodic punk against Trump and the authoritarian program worldwide in general. If any of it is heavy handed the times call for leaving no ambiguity in resisting the rise of fascism. Musically, one either likes the chances Bad Religion has taken or not but at least with its words the band has used its platform to challenging regressive political and cultural forces and to comment on the same with irreverent wit and intelligence.
Who:I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.
Who:Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.
Who:Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.
Friday | July 27, 2018
Who:Red Baraat When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Clyfford Still Museum Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.
Who:Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended. Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.
Saturday | July 28, 2018
Who:SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m. Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla
Who:Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m. Where:The Gothic Theatre Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.
Tuesday | July 31, 2018
Who:Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m. Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.
After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.
That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.
Who:Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.
Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.
Who:ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $ When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.
Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.
Wednesday | August 1, 2018
Who:Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $ When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.
Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.
October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.
Thursday: October 19, 2017
Who:Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.
Friday: October 20, 2017
Who:Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.
Who:Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.
Who:The Juan MacLean When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.
Who:Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.
Who:Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.
Saturday: October 21, 2017
Who:Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.
Who:Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.
Who:Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.
Who:The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.
Who:Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m. Where: Fort Greene Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.
Sunday: October 22, 2017
Who:Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.
Who:A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.
Monday: October 23, 2017
Who:Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.
Who:Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.
Who:Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.
Tuesday: October 24, 2017
Who:Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.
Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.
Who:Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.
Who:Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.
Who:Tei Shi w/Twelve’len When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.
Who:Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.
Who:My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.
Wednesday: October 25, 2017
Who:Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.
Who:KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.
Who:Guided by Voices When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.
Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.