Saturday | 01.07 What:Autumn Creatures w/Cherished, Bloodsports and Shadows Tranquil When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Autumn Creatures is a band from Colorado Springs whose music bridges the worlds of ambient, post-rock, orchestral post-metal, dream pop and outright shoegaze. So on a solid bill with Denver’s Cherished which has emerged from its early incarnation as more a post-punk and death rock band into the realm of shoegaze but with tweaking the edges of the aesthetic with unconventional vocal tones and rhythms that shift easily from drifty to direct. Bloodsports also from Denver is hitting the sweet spot of slowcore and shoegaze with introspective vocals and flares of noise to give what might be a more amorphous aesthetic some dramatic definition. Shadows Tranquil also doesn’t trade in subgenre adherence by thoroughly fusing chilly shoegaze with a touch of emocore and mathrock but all aimed at expressing direct emotional resonances with a maximalist sonic approach with an impressive level of musical detail and dynamic nuance.
Saturday | 01.07 What: Noise Brap: Barbie Bloodbath, Muttering, Verhoffst, Kneiffii, Sheet Metal Skingraft, Wontanii, Ghost Thief, Wolf Larva, Avarice and Mumble w/DJs Ursa, B2B and Combat Sport When: 8 Where: Glob Why: The concept of the brap was coined by Skinny Puppy and was even the title of the 1996 edition of its Back and Forth Series (3 & 4 for that iteration) which collected early instrumental demos and live recordings from earlier in the decade of collaborative electronic improvisations. And for this show the various artists in the local noise/electronic industrial/glitch scene will be teamed up with another for sessions throughout the evening and into the night.
Saturday | 01.07 What: Summit Quartet & SeFa LoCo When: 7-9 Where: Mercury Café (Jungle Room) Why: This is an evening of live improvised music featuring Right Brains Records artists Summit Quartet which includes Swedish pianist Walter Thompson and long time Denver-based avant-garde saxophonist and educator Mark Harris who has performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Roger Waters and Cab Calloway and locally known for his time in art rock projects Thinking Plague and Hamster Theater. Also on the bill is SeFaLoCo which includes not only Matt Smiley and Ron Coulter from Summit Quartet but long time local masters of improvised music Farrell Lowe and Bret Sexton.
Sunday and Monday| 01.08 and 01.09 What: Open Mike Eagle w/Video Dave and DVNEHPPY (w/Azon Classic) (on 01.08) and w/S.iah (on 01.09) When: 7 Where:Larimer Lounge (01.08) and The Coast (01.09) Why: Open Mike Eagle has been created “art rap” for more than two decades and has long been a star in the modern alternative rap world. His new album A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse (2022) is a fine dose of his always creative and imaginative lyricism casting every day situations in surreal terms that reveal insights what might otherwise be mundane and everyday situations. The album includes contributions from Armand Hammer, Aesop Rock and opening artist Video Dave. His beats go beyond mere choice sample processing and have a cinematic and literary quality in their own right creating a layered listening experience.
Friday | 01.13 What:R A R E B Y R D $ When: 6-10 Where: Rainbow Dome Why: Rainbow Dome is a project rooted in visual art and community building and this Capricorn Season-themed event involves roller skating, a dance party and a performance from hip-hop trio R A R E B Y R D $ whose music is brash, tender, emotionally rich and deep and incorporates a diverse sound that is an amalgamation of electro soul, ambient, R&B, alternative hip-hop and techno. If one were to count the top live music acts in Denver at the moment these people would have to be included.
Friday | 01.13 What:Modular Synth Night: Enemy Sender, ALX-106, Love Cosmic Love, Sine Mountain and Kent_ucky When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: As the name of the event suggests this is a showcase for some of the local modular synth artists. Normally a show like this happens at a place like Black Box or maybe Fort Greene or with the artists separately at other spaces open to pure electronic music and the more avant electronic dance and techno music but that it’s happening at a venue like Hi-Dive is a testament to what those in the know already knew and that’s that there has been an blossoming interest in synthesizer music beyond the confines of EDM and electronic dance music for many years and maybe a sign of more events like this to come outside the usual venues.
Saturday | 01.14
What: Coastless Creatives Presents Void: Feat. Closegood, Cole3K, Church Fire and Polly Urethane When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Closegood is an experimental R&B duo originally based out of Los Angeles and may still be. Its 2021 album THOTFORM was a colorful set of music that sounded like a bit like R&B, glitch, hyper pop and something that one might expect on the Orange Milk label. Cole3K is similarly-minded in sound with a more hip-hop infused cadence but with production that sounds like the rapid fire shifting pulse of modern life. Church Fire is a hyper political electronic dance industrial trio from Denver but lately it has been incorporating production ideas from the realms of glitch and hyperpop in finding ways to express the reconciliation of self with a fragmented and fragmenting world in a time of great change and crisis where world governments, especially great powers, focus on pointless conflict and a charade of identity politics while the world burns and no one holding the reigns of economic and political power is taking a leadership position to address our collective challenges with the environment, authoritarian politics, economic inequality connected by the domination of global oligarchy. Church Fire’s music is in opposition to that and creating an oasis of joy and solidarity while performing it. Polly Urethane is an evolving visionary artist who seems comfortably situated in creating works that cross the boundaries of classical music, opera, noise, industrial, performance art, dream pop and post-punk. Her shows are an exercise in fearless confrontational challenge of the artist and audience dynamic.
Tuesday | 01.17 What: Alice Does Computer Music, Certain Lives, Polly Urethane and Lanx Borealis When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Alice Does Computer Music is a New York City-based synth pop/hyperpop artist who incorporates cello into her immersive and playful soundscapes. Fans of Mitski may appreciate this artist’s particular brand of pop composition. Lanx Borealis is a Denver-based, dark ambient electronic artist whose work is in the realm of the sort of thing you might expect to hear on the long running Hearts of Space program on public radio. You never really know what kind of set you’re going to get from Polly Urethane and this might be a repeat of her show the previous Saturday or something more improvised or something new but always imaginative and powerful.
Wednesday | 01.18 What:Suki Waterhouse w/Blondshell When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Blondshell is the stage name of Sabrina Teitelbaum, a songwriter based out of Los Angeles whose singles have been making the rounds since 2022 when she started touring a bit as well on a national level. Her surprisingly fiery rock songs with lush pop hooks and commanding vocals as heard most recently with the December release of her “Veronica Mars” single are appealing enough but live Teitelbaum is a bit of a mysterious creature whose nearly acrobatic stage poses executed with an unaffected calm adds another dimension of performance style one doesn’t often see at a show like she’s incorporating yoga practice into the performance while keeping it theatrical and emotive. Suki Waterhouse is perhaps best known for her acting and modeling career having appeared in the films The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and Ana Lily Amirpour’s gritty horror thriller The Bad Batch (2016) to name but two. In 2022 Waterhouse released her debut album I Can’t Let Go through Sub Pop as well as an EP called Milk Teeth after periodically releasing a single starting with 2016’s “Brutally.” Waterhouse’s hushed vocals and introspective, spacious, cinematic songs offer some insightful and nuanced perspectives on modern relationships.
Friday | 01.20 What:The Velveteers w/The Mañanas and Pink Lady Monster When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The Velveteers return from a year of playing big out of town shows with their scorching yet joyful brand of blues rock and psychedelia with two performances and this night the Denver show with two of Denver’s finest. The spirited garage rock/power pop group The Mañanas and their breezy rhythms and sound like something that might have happened had indiepop bands taken even more of a cue from tropicalía. Pink Lady Monster seemed to emerge onto the Denver scene fully formed with an aesthetic that perfectly amalgamates dream pop, psychedelic rock and downtempo in a way reminiscent of both Broadcast and Blonde Redhead.
Friday | 01.20 What:Kool Keith w/Stay Tuned and DJ boyhollow When: 7 Where: Mercury Café Why: Kool Keith is the eccentric and influential rapper whose music with Ultramagnetic MCs and Dr. Octagon alone earn him an important place in the history of hip-hop. His surreal wordplay, profane humor and chameleonic style coupled with numerous alter egos have exerted a clear influence on hip-hop since the 1980s as a creative figure with a singular and evolving vision. Opening is the great, Denver-based crew Stay Tuned whose own style of hip-hop with two MCs is not short on imaginative culture and media commentary set to supremely creative beats in the vein of the likes of Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest. DJ-ing the show is legendary track selector boyhollow whose long running alternative music dance night Lipgloss recently went from a weekly to a monthly event.
Saturday | 01.21 What: The Velveteers w/Shady Oaks and The Nova Kicks When: 8 Where: Fox Theatre Why: This night The Velveteers play a hometown show with Americana inflected blues and garage rock band Shady Oaks and Denver indie rock band The Nova Kicks.
Saturday | 01.21 What:Instant Empire w/A Mouthful of Thunder and A Place for Owls When: 8 Where: Globe Hall Why: Since 2011 Instant Empire has been threading together classic New Wave sensibilities with introspective and hazy melodies. A Mouthful of Thunder is the latest band from Stephen Till formerly of Hearts of Palm and Black Black Ocean. Who? At any rate, Till’s sensitive lyrics and knack for dynamic melodies and inventive hooks are present here too as evidenced by its 2020 album Careful Now. A Place For Owls released its excellent self-titled debut full length in 2022 and sure it can be lumped under the clumsy umbrella genre designation of indie rock. But there is a level of orchestral composition that brings to the music a full and rich sound that complements well its yearning and existentially explorational lyrics.
Saturday | 01.21 What:Lykotonon w/Ritual Aesthetic, Noctambulist, Morningstar Delirium and DJ Swarth When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lykotonon includes members of Wayfarer, Stormkeep and Blood Incantation and its music might be described loosely as experimental black metal in that it’s more in the realm of Wolves in the Throne Room than Darkthrone and underpinned with spooky electronics that give the music an otherworldly feel. The group recently released its new album Promethean Pathology (2022) and this might be seen as something like an album release show since the record dropped on November 25. Also on the bill are like-minded denizens of the more interesting end of local extreme metal.
Sunday | 01.22 What: Velnias w/Ghosts of Glaciers and Grief Ritual When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Velnias is tricky to pin down in clear terms because its music isn’t just doom or progressive psychedelic black metal. But its appealingly forbidding yet melodic and epic songs have found an audience well beyond its unlikely hometown of Nederland, Colorado where it’s not just banjos and jam bands. Ghosts of Glaciers will be a good complement to the bill with its own progressive, doomy post-metal and Grief Ritual’s cutting, hardcore-influenced is a relentless assault on authoritarian nihilism.
Thursday | 01.26 What:Nightshark w/Quits, Tripp Nasty, Sense From Nonsense When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Free jazz/noise rock avant-garde legends Nightshark is playing its first show in over a decade and its first with saxophonist Becca Mhalek in more than fifteen years. The trio of Mhalek, Mike Buckley and Andrew Lindstrom were staples of the Denver underground scene in the 2000s playing small clubs, drive bars and DIY spaces regularly with its mind-altering musicianship and wild energy. Later incarnations of the group included the likes of Neil Keener of Wovenhand fame and Brittany Gould who some may know for her transcendent ambient folk project Married in Berdichev. But the classic trio was the longest lasting and the lineup for this reunion. Sharing the stage will be some other luminaries of the 2000s and 2010s Denver DIY world with composer and modular synth artist Tripp Nasty who has recently launched a new lathe cut label called From the Desk of the Sick Librarian which released the new Sense From Nonsense record. The latter is the solo micro soundtrack and synth and film project of Tom Nelsen who many may know from his tenure in both mutant garage rock band Vicious Women and industrial post-punk phenoms Echo Beds. Quits will also bring its noise rock madness and eruptive energy to the show with former members of White Dynamite, Sparkles, Hot White and Felt Pilotes. All killer.
Friday | 01.27 What: Church Fire, Velvet Horns and Pink Lady Monster When: 7 Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: Church Fire will grace the west side with its politically charged industrial dance party and raw emotional power. Velvet Horns is supposedly a pop punk band in the queercore vein and that’s true enough in essence but there’s nothing corny about its intensity and storytelling, like they aimed right for the vulnerable emotions that is part of the best of pop punk. Pink Lady Monster’s art pop psychedelia always seems to have a paradoxical mysterious immediacy with songs that defy easy genre tagging as its songs aren’t readily comparable to any obvious influences.
Friday | 01.27 What:Circuit des Yeux and Bleak Mystique When: 7 Where: The Coast Why: Experimental indie folk artist Haley Fohr has been releasing fascinating records as Circuit des Yeux since at least 2010. Her spectral, almost classical compositions and otherworldly and dramatic vocals seem like something that one might expect from another era or parallel universe in which Alice Coltrane is a figure in her more New Age period was cited as an influence alongside Magma as much as any classic rock or folk artist. Her 2021 album -io is like a long lost Nico record with shades of Julia Holter and Laurel Halo but of course Fohr’s unique and always boundary pushing style.
Friday | 01.27 What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Julian St. Nightmare When: 9 Where: The Crypt Why: Haunt Me is a darkwave post-punk band from Austin, Texas that often performs in a nearly choking cloak of fog so that its echoing melodies seem to indeed come through to you in a disembodied manner grounded by hypnotic beats. This swing through Colorado includes two dates, this one at The Crypt with the confrontational and fun occult darkwave dance style of the inimitable Hex Cassette who always breaks the barrier between audience cajoling performer and manic dancer in the audience. Julian St. Nightmare’s songwriting as a post-punk band is consistently pushing the barriers of the musical style with not only superior musicianship and diverse songwriting but great style and stage presence.
Saturday | 01.28 What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Sunnnner When: 8 Where: Trident Booksellers & Cafe Why: This second Haunt Me show this time in Boulder out back of the Trident book store on the west end of Pearl Street Mall not only includes Hex Cassette but Denver trio Sunnnner whose weirdo post-punk and noise rock is so idiosyncratic in its presentation it is psychedelic rock by default. Meaning the group is much more exciting and interesting than any possible hints of roots in garage rock might be there.
Saturday | 01.28 What:Why Bonnie, Sun June and Porlolo When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Why Bonnie began as a songwriting outlet for singer/guitarist Blair Howerton but by the time of its 2018 debut EP In Water the project had developed into a full band. Howerton’s vivid lyrics and command of loud and quiet dynamics and crafting of warm, evocative melodies has yielded a richly diverse body of work that has been described as shoegaze Americana but the band’s music has more in common with the likes of Rilo Kiley, Soccer Mommy and Julien Baker than Mojave 3. The group’s 2022 album 90 in November is a collection of stories of unromanticized nostalgia. That approach lends the songs an unusual and fascinating aspect of being able to appreciate one’s past as it is and not to over or undervalue how you’ve grown as a person and the ongoing process of personal development. Veteran pop Americana legends Porlolo from Denver opens the show with Erin Roberts’ own insightful takes on personal folly and a life lived without fitting neatly under a subcultural umbrella.
Tuesday | 01.31 What:SunnO))) w/Kali Malone When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: In its SHOSHIN (初心) Duo configuration SunnO))) returns to its core, original live form with founders and guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson performing its signature heavy volume ritualistic drones dealing in what they refer to as “profound valve amplification, spectral harmonics, distortion and volume.” From the beginning the duo has crafted primal waves of sound that serve as some of the heaviest ambient music rooted in an abstract rock instrument foundation, warping and mutating both aesthetics in an alchemical synthesis that is transcendent and glacially crushing. Don’t go expecting a doom band, sure it’s not quite the same without long time collaborator, the singular vocalist Attila Csihar, but all configurations of SunnO))) offer a mind-altering live experience unlike any other band in the world of heavy music or really any other. Opening the proceedings is Kali Malone. The composer grew up in Colorado and moved to Stockholm, Sweden in her late teens and has become internationally renowned for her avant-garde works of drone and modern classical music. Anyone that saw Malone performing at house shows and DIY spaces in Colorado got to see an early form of Malone’s gift for meditative, minimalist soundscapes but her 2019 album The Sacrificial Code brought her to wider international audiences. Her new album, the gorgeously layered and transportingly murky Does Spring Hide Its Joy (January 2023) includes contributions from SunnO)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton released on O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint on 3 LPs and 3 CDs.
Thursday | 12.01 What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.
Friday | 12.02 What:Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette When: 7 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.
Friday | 12.02 What:Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents When: 5 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.
Saturday | 12.03 What:Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake When: 4 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.
Saturday | 12.03 What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS When: 7 Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.
Saturday | 12.03 What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening When: 9 Where: The Crypt ($10 cash) Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.
Sunday | 12.04 What:The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.
Sunday | 12.04 What:Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae When: 7 Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.
Monday | 12.05 What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688 When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.
Monday | 12.05 What:W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint When: 7 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.
Tuesday | 12.06 What: Palm w/Water From Your Eyes When: 7 Where: Larimer Lounge Why: As Water From Your Eyes, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown have made a career of using an eclectic and ever evolving palette of sounds to explore ideas and concepts through what could be considered dance pop. That is if your frame of reference might be the experimental electronic and punk out of New York and Los Angeles of the last fifteen years. Its 2020 album 33:44 is something you’d expect more out of a band on the Northern Spy label with its beautifully dire, ambient and modern classical soundscapes that are almost an homage to Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” crossed with Howard Shore’s work for the films of David Cronenberg. But the duo’s most recent album Structure at times sounds like what might have happened if Aphex Twin in writing Selected Ambient Works Volume II had decided to turn those into pop songs. Except that Water From Your Eyes inserts enigmatic spoken word elements that serve as a a meta narrative that re-configures traditional album structure and gives the whole album a non-linear quality made cohesive by reimagining the nature of how creative work is structured. Fitting that this arty yet incredibly accessible group is sharing the stage with Philadelphia’s art rock weirdos Palm touring in support of Nicks and Grazes, an album that sounds like the band challenged its members to go on separate retreats to clear their minds of contemporary influences and to immerse themselves in non-musical art forms and come back to make the kind of psychedelic rock record that comes across like a collage of playful daydreams and arranged in a way that brushes aside conventional structure itself.
Thursday and Friday | 12.08 and 12.09 What: OFF! w/Zulu When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: OFF! is of course the newer hardcore project fronted by legendary vocalist Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and of Circle Jerks. The current lineup includes founding member Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides on guitar and as of 2021 Autry Fulbright II on bass and Justin Brown on drums. After an eight year hiatus on releases, OFF! released Free LSD in 2022. It’s still the searing hardcore sound you’d expect from the group but there are some clear differences with what sounds like synth and other ambient sounds giving the songs a psychedelic feel that wasn’t so much a part of its earlier sound. A refreshing update for a band that still maintains the intensity and edge without being stuck in a stylistic rut. Opening both dates at the Hi-Dive is anti-racist powerviolence band Zulu which injects its music with R&B samples and eschews the tough guy stance of hardcore.
Friday | 12.09 What:Pond w/Cryogeyser — rescheduled to April 16, 2023 When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Pond has shared membership with Tame Impala over the years with lead singer Nick Albrook being involved with both bands for a few years and Kevin Parker serving as drummer in earlier years and as a producer until 2020. The polished psychedelic pop of its first eight albums was helped in no small part due to Parker’s influence in the production department but with the 2021 album 9, Pond has given us its most interesting record to date with more grit in its overall sound, some edge to its funk elements and a willingness to embrace some rawness in its sound as well as take its atmospherics into a realm flirting with space rock. Los Angeles-based jangle fuzz trio Cryogeyser opens the show with its melancholic, lo-fi dream pop.
Friday | 12.09 What:Obituary w/Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation When: 5:30 Where: The Fillmore Auditorium Why: Obituary is touring ahead of the 2023 release of its new album Dying of Everything. After nearly 40 years as a band exploring the outer edges of the death metal format and pioneering some of that aesthetic it can be challenging to have something new to say with your music and a return to form can be tedious. But Obituary this time decided to stick to writing a strong set of material worthy of its pre-1997 split output. The dire messaging delivered with still convincingly brutal vocals but without cartoonish lyrics. Rounding out the bill are Seattle grindcore outfit Cattle Decapitation who are somehow both keenly aware of the absurdity and cruelty of modern human civilization and the need to ridicule the hubris of our species without making light of the situation in which we and other animals find ourselves due to a tolerance for savage forms of economic and social organization. And yes, grindcore/death metal legends/pioneers Carcass and Swedish, melodic death metal group Amon Amarth and its proclivity for lyrics about the Viking Age and a time before the Christian domination of Nordic culture.
Saturday and Sunday | 12.10 and 12.11 What: The Smile w/Robert Stillman When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Smile is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet. The trio made its debut at Glastonbury Festival in 2021 and its music produced during the limitations of association and collaboration during the COVID-19 lockdown emerged as an intimate and spacious, lonely set of melodies and fragile emotional expressions. In 2022 the group released its debut album A Light for Attracting Attention. The record is contemplative as one might expect with the musicians involved but also vulnerable and open in sentiments embracing a massive level of uncertainty and peril that continues to flow seemingly unchecked in a world beyond the ongoing pandemic and perpetuating a sustained anxiety that will have untold impacts for decades to come and written about in history books or their equivalent in some future time should such indulgences be permitted in a post-authoritarian era. The Smile seems to have written a record from the perspective of people keenly attuned to these concerns and not knowing if they’ll live long enough to see better days but not being attached to a sinking spirit of despair.
Wednesday | 12.14 What:Bartees Strange w/Pom Pom Squad and They Hate Change When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Bartees Leon Cox Jr. has worn various hats in his career both musical and otherwise. But he is perhaps best known for his music under the moniker Bartees Strange following his stint in in the post-hardcore band Stay Inside. With the release of his 2020 debut Live Forever, Cox has proven himself a master of writing emotionally nuanced and vulnerable pop songs that incorporate elements of indie folk and, synth pop and hip-hop but with a production element that seems to make the music and its complex arrangements hit with a stirring immediacy. Fans of Twin Shadow will hear some similar sonic touchstones and the sophomore album Farm to Table (2022) revealed more of Cox’s gift for genre bending to great effect in delivering songs that are at once deeply personal and politically charged.
Thursday | 12.15 What: Twin Tribes w/Dancing Plague and Plague Garden When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Twin Tribes from Brownsville, TX have garnered no small amount of buzz for its blend of minimal synth and post-punk and a kind of vitality amid melancholic tones. Its most recent studio album Ceremony (2019) sounds like songs written during a flurry of peak emotions and capturing the urgency and desperation of a recent breakup. In most cities of size, Twin Tribes is performing in medium sized clubs but in Denver we’re fortunate to be able to catch the popular band in a small club like HQ. Dancing Plague is a darkwave solo act from Portland, OR whose dusky synth pop is like a darker OMD with some touches of influence from John Maus. In the interest of full transparency, the author of this blurb is in Plague Garden, a noteworthy post-punk/New Wave band from Denver.
Thursday | 12.15 What:ABANDONS w/Old Soul Dies Young, Almanac Man and Fainting Dreams When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: This show is a nice split of experimental noise rock and shoegaze. ABANDONS might at another time be considered a post-rock band but in its mix one hears bits of post-metal, noise rock and ambient and it live shows have a visceral quality with music that one might more expect to be performed in a more meditative spirit. Old Soul Dies Young is the kind of band that happens when guys who were way into post-hardcore and doom drop that sound palette for something more melodic and atmospheric but with the same level of sonic bombast. Almanac Man is like a collision of doom and borderline aggressive, Chicago style noise rock. Fainting Dreams is the kind of dream pop band that comes about when its members maybe came up through hardcore and death metal and are shedding the aggression and mathematical precision and heaviness for radical vulnerability and dreamlike tones.
Friday | 12.16 What: Sounds for Charity: Avarice, Organ, No More Cheering, Gabriel Albelo When: 7 Where: Glob Why: Proceeds from this show go to Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Warm weather gear and hand warmers also accepted. For your donation you can catch the glitch industrial dance stylings of Organ, Gabriel Albelo’s solo performance of his heavy psychedelic rock, Avarice’s dark, menacing industrial techno and the prepared noise environment soundscapes of No More Cheering.
Saturday | 12.17 What:Love Stallion w/Shanghai Metro Temple and Meet the Giant When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Love Stallion is basically an 80s style glam metal band and if that’s your thing they’re definitely on the better end of the modern version of that with of course stage antics and style and the level of musicianship you’d expect. Shanghai Metro Temple is a fairly straight ahead indie rock band that sounds like it is heavily influenced by late 90s alternative and hard rock. Meet the Giant fuse downtempo electronic pop with post-punk, heavy shoegaze and imaginative soundscapes on the production end.
Saturday | 12.17 What:Bluebook w/Wave Decay and Mon Cher When: 8 Where: Globe Hall Why: Bluebook these days isn’t the experimental indie folk jazz band of its early days. Instead there is a darkness and not so buttoned downed, controlled intensity to the performances. Seems like Julie Davis is letting her flaws, anxieties and dreams hang more loosely with this version of the band and that has just meant its music has blossomed more and its sound palette greatly expanded with the inclusion of formery Monofog and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake singer Hayley Helmericks on drums and backing vocals, Jess Parsons on keys and other instrumentation and maybe even Anna Morsett on guitar. Wave Decay is the kind of band that sounds like it took the door through psych garage into more shoegaze sounds and all the better for it. Mon Cher’s music is a particularly transporting and lies somewhere between dream pop and downtempo jazz.
Saturday | 12.17 What:Milk Blossoms w/Meek and Knuckle Pups When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Knuckle Pups write radically vulnerable and thoughtful indie pop in the classic mold and its 2022 album TV Ready is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Milk Blossoms play a rare show with Michelle Rocquet now that she spends much of her time in New York City for professional and academic pursuits. So with this configuration of the band you’ll get the full dual vocal effect of powerfully rendered, tender pop songs that are irresistibly twee and cathartic.
Sunday | 12.18 What:Never Kenezzard w/Zingaro, Sea of Flame and Master Ferocious When: 3 Where: Globe Hall Why: Never Kenezzard don’t really fit in with the metal scene so much though its blend of progressive rock sensibilities, doom and psychedelia finds it in a particularly more interesting corner of that realm of music. Sea of Flame are a sludge rock/doom band whose epic arrangements are not the rote edition of what doom has become. Master Ferocious somehow mix classic power metal with glam rock without seeming corny because the musicianship is so strong and the performance bordering on theatrical.
Sunday | 12.18 What:Alaska Thunderfuck Presents: The Red 4 Filth Tour When: 7 Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Alaska Thunderfuck is perhaps best known for her competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race but over the last several years she has cultivated a pop music career. Steeped in modern electronic pop and a showcase for her outsize stage persona. Her latest album Red 4 Filth leaves behind some of the camp and humor of previous releases with a more obviously sincere set of pop songs that bring together sounds from hip-hop and classic modern pop including a cover of “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base.
Thursday | 12.22 What:FaceMan Western Jupiter vinyl release, Tivoli Club Brass Band and Anthony Ruptak When: 7 Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Club Why: Faceman celebrates the release of its latest album on vinyl as well as making available on vinyl for the first time its 2016 album Wild and Hunting. The band fronted by Steve Faceman has long offered finely crafted pop Americana with an experimental edge though its new album Western Jupiter shows an embrace of a more straightforward approach to songcraft. But every release is fulled with songs that have heartfelt and sharply observed lyrics in stories about life that feel like they’re part of your life because Steve has honed in on an aspect of culture and social reality that seems to be in the air in that moment. In years past Faceman has put on theatrical performances with set pieces and costumes that help to illustrate the music in dramatic fashion in collaboration with local visual artists who have helped to make these outfits and elaborate sets and pieces of artwork like the stage Megalodon of several years ago or the huge tornado of paper made for the epic Faceman’s 100 Year Storm event of 2016 at The Oriental Theater in which Faceman invited 100 bands to perform. So there’s a bit of community involvement and creative vision behind what drives the band even if it’s not necessarily abundantly obvious from listening to its excellent songs on their own.
Friday | 12.23 What:Baby Baby, Gila Teen, SORROWS and Ray Diess When: 7 Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: Baby Baby is the indie dream pop project of Lily Conrad. Reminiscent of bedroom pop artists of the late 90s and 2000s and has the aesthetics of lo-fi but with better sound production than much of that stuff often had. Gila Teen is the genre defying emo-shoegaze-post-punk band whose eccentric songs nevertheless always seem to be a direct line into the anxieties and affections coursing through the cosmos at the given moment of the performance. SORROWS is an emotionally charged downtempo band comprised of vibrant vocals, elegantly crafted rhythms and electronic production. Ray Diess is one of the Denver scene’s most compelling darkwave pop artists operating today.
Friday | 12.23 What: Fast Eddy, Julian Street Nightmare and Morning Oil When: 8 Where: Globe Hall (free) Why: When garage punk and the more mundane end of psychedelic rock collapsed under the weight of its own hubris and fake excitement some of the people who were on one end of that broader scene with any talent or imagination had to do something different and Fast Eddy came out of that milieu as a solid power pop band. Julian Street Nightmare create music from a thrilling nexus of post-punk, surf rock and art rock. Morning Oil sounds like it took some bit of inspiration from the better part of 80s glam metal and The Dead Boys.
Tuesday | 12.27 What:The Roots and BIG K.R.I.T. When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Roots are the influential, jazz rooted hip-hop band from Philadelphia that many may also know for serving as the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Its use of live musical instrumentation has always set The Roots apart from most hip-hop groups whose use of samples is most often used to craft the beat and thus its live performances have a powerful physical presence that is impossible to duplicate otherwise. Big K.R.I.T. is the acclaimed rapper and producer from Mississippi whose eclectic production and socially conscious lyrics seem to hit at a very grassroots level of appeal with an accessible sound and a way of presenting heady ideas in a way that is both creative and personally relatable.
Thursday | 12.29 What: Watch Yourself Die, Voight, Sell Farm https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sell-farm-voight-wyd-at-the-mercury-cafe-tickets-481076160747?aff=ebdshpsearchautocomplete When: 8 Where: Mercury Café Why: Watch Yourself Die is kind of a post-punk supergroup comprised of members of Hex Cassette, Ray Diess and Julian Street Nightmare. Voight has long blurred the line between shoegaze, post-punk, darkwave and techno and infused it with emotionally intense live performances. Sell Farm might be an indiepop band but one that doesn’t see a reason why heavy dub and industrial music can’t be a part of the overall wheelhouse of sounds going into the project’s eclectic but always interesting songwriting.
Thursday | 12.29 What:Discomfort Creature w/Curious Things, Nightfishing When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Discomfort Creature is a punk band from Denver whose lineup includes current and former members of Gamits and Uphollow and this show signals the vinyl release of its 2021 self-titled debut on Snappy Little Numbers now that Chris Fogal is back in town for the occasion from his current residence in Switzerland. The record is an energetic fusion of pop punk and the more angular, Dischord-esque variety of punk.
Friday | 12.30 What:FOANS, Brotherhood of Machines (album release) and Luxury Hearse When: 9 Where: Broadway Roxy Why: FOANS is the brainchild of producer Andrew Dahabrah whose melancholic house and techno music has been at the center of Denver’s underground dance music world for several years. Luxury Hearse is the project of Dan Coleman (Blank Human) and Rin Howell (Psychic Secretary) that breaks the barrier between techno, ambient and musique concrète. Brotherhood of Machines is apparently returning with its first new release and album in over six years. The project live has been a mysterious and sonically rich example of where ambient, abstract industrial, techno and noise converge to produce a sound that establishes a deep sense of mood and place.
Saturday | 10.01 What:Amyl and The Sniffers w/Boby Vylan and Cleaner When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Amyl and The Sniffers may be named after amyl nitrate aka poppers as well as a humorous nod to singer Amy Taylor’s name but its own buzz has lasted much longer than thirty seconds. The group’s early EPs Giddy Up (2016) and Big Attraction (2017) garnered the group an avid cult following in its hometown of Melbourne, Australia as well as abroad where its fuzz-infused proto-punk sound felt like a stripping back of even punk to its essentials. The band’s 2019 self-titled album and fiery live shows cemented its reputation as one of the most exciting live bands of recent years. In 2021 Taylor guested on the song “Nudge It” by influential UK duo Sleaford Mods and Amyl and The Sniffers released the sophomore album Comfort to Me. As noteworthy as the earlier records were, Comfort to Me has the group sounding as massive as the furious energy that seems to be fueling its performances this year thus far.
Saturday | 10.01 What:Abrams album release w/Lost Relics, Vexing and Lord Velvet, poster art by Mhyk Monroe When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Calling Denver metal band Abrams doom has never quite fit the group even though that’s roughly where maybe its music has landed in terms of framing. Its new album In The Dark has such an expansive spirit and deep atmospherics that its surging melodies and weighty hooks might be compared with those of Baroness, especially the newer offerings from that band. But this new record also has a touch of psychedelia on its fringes. The vocal harmonies sound and the incandescent guitar riffs somehow complement each other perfectly guided by elegantly interlocking rhythms. Live the band’s raw power feels almost as much punk as it does metal with turns of musical phrase that take the music into sonic realms beyond both making Abrams one of the most interesting bands in heavy music out of Denver right now.
Saturday | 10.01 What: Daniel Avery When: 9 Where: 1134 Warehouse Why: Daniel Avery is poducer from Bournemouth, UK whose work with the likes of synth pop artist Little Boots and nu disco project Hercules and Love Affair garnered him no small amount of cache in the world of electronic music. His latest solo album Ultra Truth is reminiscent of late 90s Underworld but more ambient, more progressive/ethereal deep house.
Saturday | 10.01 What: TheAfghan Whigs When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Afghan Whigs have long fused R&B and rock in powerful, poetic ways since the late 80s. Early comparisons to the Replacements seem a bit obvious because of the group’s passionate performances even decades later. But there is also in its music a soulful core that offers great distillations of universal human experiences and an evocation of emotion that especially live is irresistible. The group’s 1993 album Gentlemen put it on the map nationally and internationally and even now it sounds like something fairly timeless when a lot of 90s music sounds of the period. The 2022 album How Do You Burn? feels more dark and electronic than previous records but in being so like its expanding on its core sound in a bold way that it began on 2017’s In Spades.
Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04 What: black midi w/Quelle Chris When: 7:30 (10.03), 8 (10.04) Where: Fox Theatre (10.03) and Ogden Theatre (10.04) Why: For connoisseurs of highly imaginative art rock, London’s black midi has been a go to for finding some of the most wild dynamics and musical ideas this side of Frank Zappa for many years. Its much more than its truly creative and unique guitar and bass compositions and performances its like these guys tap into various sounds in orchestrating a musical experience that exists outside normal time. Its new album Hellfire (2022) feels like a lounge jazz variety show as curated by Anthony Braxton, Zappa or Zach Hill. The group uses its hyperkinetic maximalist approach to songwriting in ways that clearly aim at producing compelling songwriting and not just as an exercise in superior musicianship. Like a Can having come up after being influenced by Women and Hella.
Monday and Tuesday | 10.03 and 10.04 What: Iceage and Earth When: 7 (10.03) and 8:30 (10.04) Where:The Marquis Theater (10.03) and Fox Theatre (10.04) Why: Danish band Iceage had an immediate cult following with the release of its 2011 album New Brigade and its tour of small clubs DIY spaces including Rhinoceropolis in Denver, Colorado that year revealed a band that sat at the nexus of hardcore and moodier yet cathartic post-punk. But as the band developed its sound it grew into a brilliantly decadent art rock that might have had more sonic kinship with 80s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and with its most recent studio offering Seek Shelter it reconciled its various creative instincts for music that had both the forcefulness of its early music and the sophistication of what came after. In September 2022 Iceage released Shake The Feeling: Outtakes & Rarities 2015-2021 including songs that could have easily have been on the records of that time period but which didn’t quite fit in and showcased how Iceage had absorbed power pop and the noise rock of the likes of Dinosaur Jr. Also on this tour are doom legends Earth whose visionary heavy blues psychedelia has been an influence on most doom bands since its own 1989 inception whether they know it or not. Its soundscapes and use of drone has an almost ritualistic, mystical quality that utilizes slow, hypnotic progressions to build dramatic tension and release in a way that draws you further into emotional spaces maybe you had shuffled to the side in the headlong pace of everyday life but are better off experiencing and processing in the ways Earth seems so adept at facilitating with its gorgeous layers of psychedelic heaviness.
Wednesday | 10.05 What:Ceremony w/Spy, Restraining Order and Candy Apple When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Ceremony was considered one of the great bands of 2000s hardcore with its 2008 album Still Nothing Moves You standing as one of the most potent examples of that music of that decade. But its own musical ideas were progressing rapidly out of hardcore and 2010’s Rohnert Park contained experiments in sound and songwriting that were well out of the hardcore frame. Zoo (2012), though, had Ceremony well into post-punk territory and though its tour for the album had the band in high, ferocious form it was a fascinating contrast with music that seemed to be more in tune with its atmospheric potential rather than merely the visceral. Since then the group has gone straight into arty almost glam rock territory with its most recent album In the Spirit World Now (2019) making Ceremony a band that is forging a creative path that is yielding fascinating results with every release.
Wednesday | 10.05 What:Broken Social Scene w/Jasmyn When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: Broken Social Scene is a bit of a supergroup making glorious and epic art pop whose membership has included musicians from Do Make Say Think, Metric, Feist, Stars and other notable Canadian musical projects. For this tour the group is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of the release of its monumental 2002 album You Forgot It In People. While orchestral in its arrangements the album’s lush sound felt like an intimate exploration of personal aspirations, identity and culture through an eclectic run of songs that could be awash in nostalgic ambient pop haze and urgent rock songs that harnessed an exuberant energy that seemed to drive the whole album underneath its inspired moments of reverie. The original record featured eleven members and its tour at that time delivered on the seemingly daunting promise of the recorded album and this is a chance to catch that moment in the group’s development one more time.
Thursday | 10.06 What: Night Moves w/Free Music When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Night Moves is a rock band from Minneapolis that has been honing its blend of power pop, psychedelia and Americana since forming in 2010. Across three albums and now two EPs Night Moves’ eclectic style with one leg in modern American indie rock and the other in soul and R&B has evolved and refined to produce the expansive and bright yet introspective moods you hear in its 2022 EP The Redacted. Its its flow of melodic layers and sonic detail one might hear the touch of the more cosmic end of Gram Parsons and Spirit as well as some resonance with what more modern artists like Whitney and Foxygen have done in melding a classic songwriting sensibility and modern use of electronic production in achieving a depth of atmosphere but accomplished with more tangible instrumentation.
Thursday | 10.06 What: Pusha T w/IDK When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: On his fourth studio album It’s Almost Dry, rapper Pusha T puts his usual commanding string of bars over beats that are a mixture of inspired sampling and deeply evocative and atmospheric melodies. The title of the album he said in an interview with Rolling Stone references the making of a painting and thus an album as it’s being finalized. But also drug culture when you have to wait on the product to dry before it can be distributed. And the album walks those boundaries in terms of them and metaphors brought to bear. Once again, like Pusha T’s 2018 masterpiece Daytona, this new record sounds like a journey through the labyrinth of aspirations and personal ghosts that require creativity and boldness to navigate without getting sunk by the trappings of the former and the enervating power of the latter.
Friday and Saturday | 10.7 and 10.8 What: Viagra Boys w/Shame and Kills Birds When: 7:30 (10.7) and 7 (10.8) Where:The Fox Theatre (10.7) and The Gothic Theatre (10.8) Why: Viagra Boys are a Swedish rock band that has defied easy categorization going back to its audacious 2018 debut album Street Worms. Like if a post-punk band embraced the more glam and art rock roots of that music while giving it a raw edge. With the release of 2022’s Cave World the group seems to have let go of any stylistic restraints that have guided it in established directions. The brash and irrepressible energy heard on the record has garnered comparisons by critics to Iggy Pop and one would presume to IDLES. But Viagra Boys more than dabble in electronics and “Troglodyte” sounds like Devo pushed through a garage rock lens. And live Viagra Boys have earned the Iggy-esque reputation with exuberant performances that sound and feel like they could collapse or go off in unexpected directions at any moment. Co-headliners Shame from South London have had a similar creative trajectory as Viagra Boys. Its own first album, Songs of Praise, also dropped in 2018 to great acclaim. But its much-anticipated sophomore album Drunk Tank Pink more than delivered when it was available in mid-January 2021 during a period when live music was basically at a standstill due to the pandemic but anyone that pre-ordered the record got to see a stream of an intimate and emotionally stirring performance of the songs not only revealing how Drunk Tank Pink was a leap into new directions for Shame but how it was able to take its own raw energy and channel that into sensitive and nuanced yet powerful takes on the sense of desperation and and pent up frustration with nowhere to go but plug those feelings into a rare depth of personal reflection, in particular the track “Human, For a Minute” and its perfect and poetic encapsulation of a kind of emotional solidarity based in universal human experiences that anyone can identify even beyond the circumstances of the enforced life limitations of the pandemic and the emergent sense of personal dignity discovered by most people that had been covered over by the headlong momentum of the fraud that was “normal life.” And if two of the best bands out of the wide realm of post-punk wasn’t enough Kills Birds from Los Angeles is a noise rock trio whose own scorching and unrelenting songwriting has garnered great critical acclaim and fans like Kim Gordon and Dave Grohl. Its 2021 album Married is obviously informed by music from the grunge era but also oddly reminds one of the youthful energetic outburst of Minor Threat combined with the elegant and gritty moodiness of Live Skull.
Friday | 10.7 What:Suzanne Vega When: 7 Where: Boulder Theater Why: The a capella recording of “Tom’s Diner” was used as a test track during the development of the MP3 digital audio format. The track was at the end of Suzanne Vega’s 1987 breakthrough album Solitude Standing, bookending one of the most sensitive and knowing and clever records of the 1980s with “Luka,” a song about child abuse, an unlikely mainstream radio hit. But Vega’s idiosyncratic, folk rock songs had already made waves in college radio and would continue to do so long after the mainstream no longer seemed to shine its light on the talented songwriter’s career. Vega perhaps became known to a wide audience with her song “Left of Center” as it appeared on the soundtrack to the 1986, John Hughes penned coming of age film Pretty In Pink.
Saturday | 10.8 What: Verhoffst, KNEIFFII, Laudanum_quilt, ET Mac & the Alien, DJ URSA and No More Cheering When: 6, $10 cover Where: Glob Why: This is fundraiser for Puerto Rican mutual aid group Brigada Solidaria del Oeste featuring some of Denver’s finest industrial noise and experimental sound sculptors.
Saturday | 10.8 What: Kid Bloom w/Wizthemc and All Things Blue When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Kid Bloom’s style of indie pop seems to be inspired by the sort of chillwave and hip-hop production that The Weeknd has perfected up to this point. But his new album Highway sounds like an introspective journey (street sounds included) through a mood that feels like he’s trying to leech out a malaise and spiritual exhaustion that sits deep inside through a radically self honest look at his own ways of conducting himself and his life from often subconscious and almost always else unexamined motivations as tied with life experiences that can tumble by you into a dark place in your head left neglected in the headlong pace in modern life. In the song “Cowboy” alone when Kid Bloom sings “when desperation pulls me closer” its obvious that he’s become very familiar with a deep place in his own psychology and took the opportunity to explore that territory in his music with an aim to soothing and letting those personal demons go. It’s just that the lush synth work and production like an even more luminous early Twin Shadow makes these feelings seem possible to process with success.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.08 and 10.09 What: DaiKaiju w/TripLip When: 7 Where:The Squire Lounge (10.08) and 715 Club (10.09) Why: DaiKaiju is the legendary surf and psychedelic kabuki theater and kaiju themed rock band from Alabama. Its shows involve fire and wildly energetic performances and a transformation of the venue into a ritual space of fun and rock and roll myth come to life. Opening the show as usual is Denver dup TripLip whose fusion of experimental prog, weirdo jazz, funk and punk with elements of performance art is the perfect complement to the strangeness that is a DaiKaiju show.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.08 and 10.09 What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Acid Dad When: 8 (10.08) and 7 (10.09) Where: Globe Hall Why: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia have certainly chosen a surrealistic and absurd name for the band but it’s one that you don’t forget despite its three words and multiple syllables. It makes no sense and therefore doesn’t automatically suggest an aesthetic or a sound other than something colorful and certainly its brand of fuzzed out guitar atmospherics and sublime vocal melodies swimming in a wavy, expansive dynamic embodies what modern psychedelia should be more like. Its 2022 album Night Gnomes has song titles worthy of Black Moth Super Rainbow and an unabashed playful trippiness in its tonal choices and the visual representation of the music akin to early Mercury Rev. Also on the bill is the surprisingly original and not at all style victim psychedelic rock band Acid Dad whose elegant compositions are enveloping and hypnotic with irresistible whorls of transporting soundscaping.
Sunday | 10.09 What: Cyclo-Sonic w/The Valve When: 1 Where: Wax Trax Why: Cyclo-Sonic is an always forceful post-grunge punk band comprised of members of local punk legends like Rok Tots, The Choosey Mothers, Fluid and Frantix. The quartet recently released its most recent album Everything Went Stupid on Big Neck Records and may be available at the show ahead of the official October 21, 2022 release date.
Sunday | 10.09 What:Melt-Banana w/Quits and Wiff When: 7 Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Melt-Banana is a ferocious ball of sounds and ideas that seem to erupt in multiple directions at the same time live on stage so that its manic energy and dazzling array of noises fits nicely in the realm of noise rock, grindcore, glitchcore, math-y hardcore and really like no other band even from the very rich world of Japanese experimental rock. That the group was inspired by the raw originality of the bands on the No New York compilation as the baseline starting point in being able to carve out its own sound should come as no surprise. Quits from Denver might be simply described as noise rock as well but there is something also primal in its angular and unpredictable musical and emotional trajectories that makes it sound dangerous from the beginning of a song to the end.
Sunday | 10.09 What:MAITA w/Allison Lorenzen and Moodlighting When: 7 Where: The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club Why: MAITA released one of the most poignant and astute set of songs on the deleterious effects of overstimulation through the bombardment of information and the demands of that constant flow on psyche with I Just Want To Be Wild For You (2022). But the songs hit deeply personal notes with a gentleness of spirit that also conveys a coherence of creative vision that comes from serial realizations about the world around you. MAITA’s pairing of exquisite vocal melodies and evocative counter melodies in the music lend the music an intimacy of tone that feels like MAITA has given voice to some of your own anxieties and discovered a way to make them explicable and easier to untangle. Allison Lorenzen has created some of the most compellingly and emotionally stirring ambient and experimental folk of recent years out of Denver. Moodlighting’s blend of shoegaze and dream pop is delicate and vulnerable and in being so draws you into its poetic commentary on life in this tentative and confusing era.
Sunday | 10.09 What:Front 242 and The Revolting Corpse When: 7 Where: The Oriental Theater Why: This is the final North American tour for the foundational, influential and legendary EBM band Front 242 who despite some of their martial sounds and hard industrial visual aesthetic have made songs about the human condition with humor and insight. The Revolting Corpse is a bit of an industrial music super group that for this iteration, the last of its kind, will include founding Revolting Cocks members Paul Barker and Chris Connelly.
Monday | 10.10 What: Kaelan Mikla w/Kanga and Midnight Marionettes When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Icelandic post-punk trio Kaelan Mikla returns to Denver following the release of its 2021 album Undir Köldum Norðurljósum. Its suffusion of the otherworldly and ethereal into its primal sound gives its melodies a visceral quality that renders its signature styles in cool colors and tonal stark yet bleeding contrasts. The sublime and the feral in its vocals playing off each other gives it the flavor of a Viking epic that wouldn’t be out of place in a future show about Vikings that are versed in magic and mysticism.
Tuesday | 10.11 What:The Mars Volta w/Teri Genderbender When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Mars Volta is the influential art rock band that formed after the split of the also impactful arty post-hardcore group At the Drive-In. The Mars Volt combined the angular dynamics and raw power and energy of punk with the creative ambition and histrionics that informed Led Zeppelin and the progressive rock of King Crimson. With a new, self-titled album out that reveals an outfit that has pared back some of its inspired, sprawling workouts of politico-mystical poetry and elongated phrasings in favor of songs that cut with the intro and get into the heart of the songwriting and seem to have incorporated more straightforward pop songcraft and gentleness of textures into its soundscapes. It doesn’t sound like a group of artists that are trying to recapture previous glory but pushing forward toward musical ideas that may once again be ahead of the tastes of previous fans.
Tuesday | 10.11 What:Otoboke Beaver w/Cheap Perfume When: 7 Where: Globe Hall Why: Otoboke Beaver from Kyoto, Japan takes cultural references, tropes and frustrations and shreds them and reassembles them in a surrealistic yet cathartic bursts of mutant punk rock fury. That this process is set to hypermanic melodies that are undeniably catchy and even infectious is a testament to their deep resonance with anyone that has had to tangle with the alienation of modern hypercapitalism and the way it warps culture and consciousness unless you make a break with it and turn it in on itself the way Otoboke Beaver has done not just with that particular brand of psychological conditioning but also with the baked in misogyny of Japanese and Western culture. But this band makes it seem fun and revolutionary by virtue of making that critique seem exciting. None more so than on its 2022 album Super Champon. It’ll be in good company with the radical yet immediately relatable subject matter and the energy of Colorado Springs punk band Cheap Perfume who mince no words in their deconstruction and dismantling of sexist tropes.
Tuesday | 10.11 What: Superorganism w/Blood Cultures When: 7 Where: Meow Wolf Why: Superorganism’s 2022 album World Wide Pop is another exploration of the outer edges of where accessible pop song can occupy in its ever-expanding aesthetic. From the beginning it has a production style and pacing that feels like constant weirdo advertisement for some strange variety show with a level of sampling and manufacturing of samples nearly on par with a hip-hop record of old. To merely dub what the band does as psychedelic pop doesn’t do justice to how genuinely strangely its songs come across. Like if Elton John co-wrote an album with Cut Copy as produced by Charli XCX inspired to make an album that tapped into the cheesiest of 1980s synth pop and turned it inside out. It’s the kind of music that washes through your brain and lingers for longer than average with so many unusual song ideas it might take your brain a minute or ten to catch up and appreciate what you’ve just heard.
Tuesday | 10.11 What: Kris Baha w/Mvtant, Modern Devotion and DJs Moody and Wngdu When: 9 Where: Glob Why: Kris Baha got his start in the Melbourne, Australia club scene with the industrial weekly event Power Station. But these days Baha calls Berlin home but his crafting of dark, hard techno with a leg in EBM has been on a steady arc of development that these days intersects aesthetically with the likes of darkwave artists likes Kontravoid and hardware-based industrial techno like Mvtant who is also on the bill and Modern Devotion, which is the techno project of Adam Rojo from post-punk group Voight.
Wednesday | 10.12 What: Alex G w/Barrie https://www.ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/434815 When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Alexander Giannascoli aka Alex G is one of the most gifted pop songwriters of his generation with a respectable track record of orchestral indie folk that is sharply observed and widely eclectic and inventive in production and swapping and collaging styles. This unorthodox aesthetic is very much to the fore on the new Alex G record God Save the Animals where the songwriter free employs processing on all sounds and at times casts his voice in different modes including some of the only cool use of autotune in “Cross the Sea” where he also uses surreal and bizarre tones to establish a mood of resigned melancholy. But the whole record sounds like an exercise in fascinating experiments making catching him on this tour look promising in getting to see a lot of the new material live.
Thursday | 10.13 What: Clutch w/Helmet, Quicksand and JD Pinkus When: 6 Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Over thirty years into its career Clutch continues to defy easy categorization in being too close to the spirited drive of punk to be strictly metal, too sludgy and groove oriented in its riffs to be punk. Too charged with momentum to truly be a “stoner rock” band and too willing to experiment with its core sound and ideas to stay stuck in the same musical rut for decades because something worked with commercial success years ago resulting in an ossified style. Its new album Sunrise on Slaughter Beach doesn’t reinvent Clutch’s aesthetic so much as show how the band still knows how to write hard rock with a clarity and economy of style without compromising its ability to stretch out and get weird, the title track being a prime example. Also on the bill are noteworthy practitioners of sludgy heaviness from the alternative rock era with Helmet and Quicksand who on their own would be worth catching live. And JD Pinkus who some may know for his tenure in Butthole Surfers on Honky.
Thursday | 10.13 What: The Peculiar Pretzelmen, Vampire Squids From Hell and Plastic Rakes When: 8 Where: Jester’s Palace Why: The Peculiar Pretzelmen from Los Angels is a band that took the challenge of making its own instruments sometimes parted out from other instruments or from everyday objects in order to craft music so idiosyncratic yet accessible one wonders how there hasn’t already been an eccentric documentary about the band. Musically its somewhere betwixt Bob Log III, Flat Duo Jets, a steam punk version of Dead Moon and Pere Ubu. Fitting enough that psychedelic, noisy surf rock weirdos Vampire Squids From Hell are opening as are prog pop trio Plastic Rakes.
Thursday | 10.13 What: Om w/Zombi When: 7 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Om might be described as ritual doom as its songs combine sonic elements you might more readily associate with devotional music. Compound time signatures that make the music resolve in ways that sink into the mind and move you in ways that feel like they’re coming from a primal place and processed drones that serve as a meditative preparation and backdrop to the direct action of each song. With the high volume of the live setting Om’s music comes off both cosmic and channeling the energies of an ancient and largely forgotten mother civilization to those we know now. Pittsburgh’s Zombi is perhaps best known for its true fusion of heavy rock with synthesizer music in crafting music that at times might remind one of the psychedelic progressive rock of Goblin who composed music not only for Dawn of the Dead (named Zombi in Italy from which this project borrows its own moniker) but multiple Dario Argento horror classics. Chances are this performance will feature that end of the group’s music. The duo’s most recent album is Zombi & Friends Vol. 1 which is a set of fairly faithful covers of songs by The Eagles, Alan Parsons Project, Dionne Warwick, Eddie Rabbit, The Doobie Brothers and more soft rock and pop artists whose work primarily emerged prominently in the 1970s. Somehow it works and the record itself includes appearances from members of The Sword, Trans Am, Pinkish Black, Zao and others. Maybe you’ll get to see some of that too.
Friday | 10.14 What:Honey Blazer vinyl release w/Body and Jasper Adkins When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Denver’s Honey Blazer is the kind of band that seems to have unabashedly come out of that flood of indie psych and 1970s folk rock revival of the 2010s. But like many of those bands at least the songwriting is deeply attentive to craft and tight performances that give its sound great range and nuance. Its debut album Lookin’ Up has an elegance and poetry of composition that transcends any of the aforementioned considerations like if a group of guys took threads of the Dead and The Velvet Underground at their most pop and countrified and absorbed late 60s Flying Burrito Brothers along with Joni Mitchell of that same era and infused it with a touch of Bob Dylan with The Band and Fairport Convention but all translated through the lens of modern sensibility. Like what indie Americana wants to be but rarely achieves.
Friday | 10.14 What: Maude Latour w/Charlie Hickey When: 8 Where: Globe Hall Why: Since 2019’s Starsick, Maude Latour has been releasing a series of inventive pop EPs including her latest, 001 from 2022. Her take on indie R&B and dream pop has an layer of complexity with thoughtful personal observations and her willingness to experiment with the composition of her beats and melodies freely borrowing from experimental electronic music and vocal processing. At times her music is reminiscent of what Alice Glass has been doing since going solo but Latour’s vocal style is very much her own and wide-ranging and inventively eclectic.
Saturday | 10.15 What: Guerilla Toss w/Forty Feet Tall and Hex Cassette When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: For the past decade Guerilla Toss has been pushing the envelope of the fusion of experimental electronic music and art rock. From its artwork to its music videos and stage show, Guerilla Toss has always put a personal touch to how it engages with a potential audience. In putting forth an idiosyncratic creative vision the band has in its way encouraged anyone encountering its music to forge their own path whether as fellow creatives or someone just getting through life and resisting a beige compliance with a standard issue existence. The latest Guerilla Toss album Famously Alive is somehow simultaneously its most adventurous and accessible album to date with songs that sound like they’re coming from the edges of dreams and expressive of a spirit of hopefulness and acceptance, of a will to use imagination to explore the potentials life has to offer if your existence wasn’t limited by practical considerations.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Church Fire album release w/Xadie James Orchestra, Dragon Drop and Sell Farm When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Wildly energetic and intense industrial dance trio Church Fire is celebrating the release of its album puppy god on Witch Cat Records with this show sharing the stage with like-minded weirdos and comrades in deconstructing popular musical styles and infusing it with a social analysis that is both inspirational and in which its easy to get swept up in the moment. The new album itself is like a science fiction novel in which one imagines a better future in spite of the time of troubles we’re experiencing at this moment. It’s an embrace of a perhaps foolish hope that the collective us can endure the onslaught of authoritarian politics and culture and outlast its momentum.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Metric w/Secret Machines When: 7 Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Keeping your band going for twenty-four years is challenging enough but even more so is to sustain a band with some artistic ambition and inventiveness across a similar period but that’s what is obvious from Metric’s 2022 album Formentera. The dream-like atmospherics and lush soulfulness of the music is still there. But this time around, perhaps more so than on previous albums, Metric takes aim at some of the serious issues that are coming crashing into human civilization that are impacting us all in a direct and personal way. The band is calling this tour the “Doomscroller Tour” after the first song on the album and how the very common habit of scrolling through social media and the news and being confronted with the horror, oppression, violence, despair, deprivation, disaster and much more that has come to be considered the norm and a generalized dissociation seems like a feature of modern life as a coping mechanism that can be psychologically paralyzing when it becomes a generalized state of mind. The album in its grand vistas of beauty and menace aims to disrupt that process with some choice commentary and music that inspires movement and challenges complacency in listeners as well as in the creation of the songs that seem to mark a new era for the long-running band.
Saturday | 10.15 What:Meet Me @ The Altar w/MUNA at Boulder Theater When: 7 Where: Boulder Theater Why: Synth pop trio MUNA could have gone a different route since two of the three members are guitarists but having met in college at the University of South California they decided on taking a different route. And the result is an electronic pop sound with great momentum in its rhythms and vocal harmonies that soulful and vital. Opening act Meet Me @ The Altar is a pop-punk group from Florida that is really combining musical styles in an exuberant mix that takes that emotionally expansive and open and self-affirming spirit of pop-punk and blends it with joyful pop production for a sound that is genuinely exciting and uplifting. Earlier in the year the group released an acoustic version of its 2021 EP Model Citizen.
Sunday | 10.16 What: Taleen Kali w/Tuff Bluff, Galleries and Princess Dewclaw When: 7 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Taleen Kali spent the early part of the 2010s in the experimental, exuberant garage/shoegaze outfit TÜLIPS. But for the past few years with the project under her own name, Kali has been establishing her own sound that draws on some of those early influences but might be considered in the realm of post-punk, raw psychedelic rock and dream pop in a vital fusion of elements. Her forthcoming album Flower of Life is an emotional and musical journey from a fiery and direct energy to something more contemplative and tranquil. This tour may feature a good deal of that material before you can hear it in full in early 2023 and the group has a certain forceful and charismatic quality that makes the music hit harder than one might expect. Also on the bill is s Sarah Fischer’s latest project Tuff Bluff and noisy and political post-punk group Princess Dewclaw.
Sunday | 10.16 What:Molly Nilsson w/Water on the Thirsty Ground and French Kettle Station When: 8 Where: Glob Why: Molly Nilsson is a Swedish born electronic pop artist now based in Berlin. Since 2007 she has been creating a rich body of work including ten albums starting with These Things Take Time (2008) which yielded her first widely recognized single “Hey Moon” and covered by experimental electronic artist John Maus on his 2011 album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. The introspective sounds and luminous melodies with measured yet accented beats of Nilsson’s early work and her poetically illustrative lyrics brought to the songs a mystique that has endured throughout the songwriter’s career. Her embrace of a lo-fi aesthetic and organic noise in her songs also gives the music a sense of immediacy and intimacy that other artists at her level of accomplishment, development and influence might have chosen to edit out in pursuit of a kind of fictional purity. This core humanity to Nilsson’s work is one of its perhaps often unspoken appeal and it helps to ground some of the heady concepts she infuses into her lyrics. There is a political element in much of her music that explores concepts of power, our notions of identity and the foundation of what we aspire to achieve and do with our lives and how that is so often driven by the prevailing economic system controlled by the interests of elites until we learn to disentangle our dreams and psychology generally from the ongoing process of commodifying every aspect of our lives. This examination always seems to be carried out in a compassionate and imaginative way and never comes across in didactic fashion. Her 2022 album Extreme brings together Nilsson’s various impulses and instincts as a uniquely creative musician who imbues accessible pop songs with rich conceptual content that most directly yet not explicitly explores the place and role of power in the world and how it manifests in society and in our own consciousness and how we can challenge the less savory aspects of it in the world and in our own hearts. It’s a thematically deep record that works on the level of a poignant social critique and as pure pop songcraft. It is yet another chapter in Nilsson’s ever-evolving artistic journey and one worth taking in from beginning to end. This marks her first performance in Colorado.
Saturday and Sunday | 10.15 and 10.16 What: The Wrecks w/CARR When: 7 both nights Where: The Black Sheep (10.15) and Fox Theatre (10.16) Why: The Wrecks are a pop band from Los Angeles, California that formed in 2015 when Nick Anderson and Aaron Kelley put their pop-punk band Coastbound on hiatus in favor of a more straight ahead pop project they would call The Wrecks. Though technically more of an alternative rock band the pop sensibility of what The Wrecks have put into the world across its two albums including the 2022 offering Sonder is undeniable even though one is reminded of the better end of late 90s alternative rock with some taking of those threads further and genre bending in the modern mode of blurring genre lines to keep the sound from getting stale and aging better rather than getting pigeonholed to a particular era of music.
Monday | 10.17 What: King Princess w/Em Beihold https://www.missionballroom.com/event/428147-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets When: 7 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: For her sophomore album Hold On Baby, King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) dispenses with the pretense of pretending everything is okay or going to be okay as one often hears in pop music. She also leaned into an eclectic and instrumentally rich songwriting and recording process that somehow also didn’t hamper how raw the record feels because it is artfully truthful about the struggle of dealing with the world as we have it and if you’re a touring musician that depends on live music and the industry for your livelihood the past three years and really much longer have been challenging as evidenced by Santigold’s recent statement on why she canceled her upcoming tour. Santigold, a very established and respected artist. Straus captures that moment in multiple ways on the new record and the fact that the late, great Taylor Hawkins played on the pointed social critique of “Let Us Die” is particularly poignant. Seems that song might be hard to play live but it’s such a powerful song hopefully Straus doesn’t skimp on it for this tour.
Wednesday | 10.19 What: L7 – Bricks Are Heavy 30th Anniversary tour w/FEA When: 7 Where: Summit Music Hall Why: L7 benefited from the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s without really sounding much like any of the more popular styles. Its mix of metal and punk with a irreverent sense of humor and ferocious energy paired with sensitive takes on subjects that might not be obvious from the band’s image as hard rocking hellions but a deep dive into its catalog reveals some choice moments of poignant character portraits and social commentary against war, sexism, abuse and psychological turmoil. Its 1992 album Bricks Are Heavy catapulted the band briefly into mainstream radio and certainly stations catering to the alternative music format at a key time when the music industry was in disarray in trying to keep up with the flood of music rock and otherwise becoming popular beyond what was already calculated to perform well in a commercial sense. Bricks Are Heavy yielded at least two stone classics of the alternative era with “Shitlist” and “Pretend We’re Dead” but you’ll get to see probably the whole album live for this show.
Wednesday | 10.19 What: Napalm Death w/Brujeria and Clusterfux When: 6 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Napalm Death is one of the foundational bands of grindcore but its music imbued with always on point political and socially critical content. It also has to be admitted that Napalm Death doesn’t just have brutal, noisy music, it’s catchy and isn’t short on hooks and melody for one of the bands who has a reputation for pointed and electrifyingly challenging music. Brujeria is also a sort of death metal and grindcore band that has a wicked sense of humor and political commentary couched in the character of some kind of revolutionary drug gang writing songs in Spanish about illicit substances, Satanism, the occult and populist politics aimed at authoritarian impulses. Clusterfux is one of the absolute classic Denver skate punk and hardcore bands still in operation since 1995 and still putting on a spirited live show.
Thursday | 10.20 What:Antibroth w/Supreme Joy, Pink Lady Monster and Endless Nameless When: 7 Where: Lost Lake Why: Sometimes an all local bill can be a bunch of the same thing or not all excellent bands but fortunately that’s not the case for this show. Endless Nameless blurs the line completely between math rock, emo and death metal in an impressive display of musical chops with an equally impressive emotional range. Supreme Joy’s lo-fi psychedelic garage inflected post-punk sounds like something that had to have come out in Los Angeles’ weirdo art punk world of the early 80s but having landed in the 2020s absorbing the influence of decades of experimental pop. To say its music is reminiscent of Savage Republic gone psychedelic pop Americana or The Feelies having done the same might be a bit much but it gives you a sense of what you’re in for. Pink Lady Monster appears to have skipped trendy sounds of the past decade and crafted a deeply imaginative style of music that is rooted in more left field rock but comes off like an indie pop version of Broadcast and thoroughly entrancing because of that. Antibroth is definitely in the broad galaxy of post-punk but freely associating ideas from No Wave, math rock and noise rock into the mix. Like they grew up listening to a lot of Protomartyr, Pere Ubu, Palm, Lithics and the Contortions but decided to make their own mutant version of the kinds of sounds that leaked into their brain in a society in which we’re constantly bombarded by content and doing something different was one way to be free.
Saturday | 10.22 What: Juliet Mission w/Plague Garden, SORROWS and DJ Katastrophy When: 9 Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Juliet Mission are still a bit of a secret great modern shoegaze band and out of Denver including current and former members of jazz-inflected dream pop rock band Sympathy F. This might be the first show for SORROWS, a downtempo duo with beautifully orchestrated soundscapes and deeply emotionally expressive songs that seem like a cathartic expression of just what the name of the band suggests without wallowing overlong in the dark end of that as the music is ultimately about embracing the broad spectrum of experiences life presents us. Plague Garden bridge the gap between death rock inflected post-punk and synth infused New Wave and full disclosure the author of this piece plays second guitar in the group.
Saturday | 10.22 What: Spacey Jane When: 8 Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Spacey Jane’s 2022 sophomore album Here Comes Everybody is like the catharsis of the depression, anxiety and uncertainty everyone with any level of sensitivity has undergone in the last few years with of course the pandemic (ongoing) and really for a working musician the way things already felt precarious but were amplified by the various ways the pandemic has affected the ecosystem of the music industry from independent local artists and their own way of operating to even famous, commercially successful artists and definitely artists like Spacey Jane who are in that middle tier of renown where they can play middle sized theaters internationally but touring out of Australia to the rest of the world can be a dicey proposition. Musically its lightly psychedelic pop rock style makes that exploration of life challenges directly relatable even if you’re not a musician. Songs like “Lots of Nothing” are about self-acceptance of your flawed and what you might perceive as incomplete self and “Clean My Car” and “Haircut” point out some basic everyday things we must force ourselves to do to have a scaffold out of the emotionally paralyzing end of depression.
Sunday | 10.23 What: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Scott Von Ryper When: 8 Where: Paramount Theatre Why: Indeed it’s The Jesus and Mary Chain performing in a fancier theater than usual for a Denver show. The legendary band predated and completely informed the sound of shoegaze in the 90s with its mastery of both volume and fragmented melodies that still hit a sweet spot so that it could never be saccharine nor dismissed as discordant. JAMC blurred that line completely with beautiful vocal melodies, emotionally intense yet nuanced songwriting and the ability to deconstruct musical conventions while reassembling them for the modern era in a way that reconciled a pre-classic rock 1960s pop era with the sonic possibilities open to a band from the 1980s willing to not follow prevailing trends to forge a vital sound often imitated, rarely if ever equaled. There is no A Place to Bury Strangers, no My Bloody Valentine, no modern dream pop and noise rock really without the root inspiration of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sunday | 10.23 What:Spelling w/Ramahkhandra and BODY When: 7 Where: Bluebird Theater Why: In a 2021 interview in Under the Radar by Jordan J. Michael, Christia “Tia” Cabral who performs as Spelling cited her favorite albums were by artists as disparate as Minnie Ripperton, Kraftwerk and Iggy Pop. That tells you a lot about the kind of music and show you’re in for if you decide to come out to this show in support of her 2021 album The Turning Wheel. It’s baroque pop with an art rock underpinning. Opening is experimental pop/performance art band BODY from Denver and the eclectic psychedelic world music inflected jazz of Denver underground greats Ramakhandra.
Sunday | 10.23 What: EXTC featuring Terry Chambers of XTC https://www.eventbrite.com/e/extc-tickets-403543699067 When: 7 Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Terry Chambers was the drummer for the legendary pop/post-punk band XTC from 1972 until it stopped touring and playing live shows in 1982 though his work appeared on the 1983 XTC record Mummer. Afterward he ended up living in Australia for many years where he did session work behind the drum kit before returning to the UK and recorded an album called Great Aspirations (2017) with ex-XTC member Colin Moulding and another bandmate Steve Tilling under the project moniker TC&I. Shortly after Chambers and Tilling formed EXTC which performs classic songs by Chambers’ old band from the period in which he was an active participant. This is a rare opportunity to get to see any of this music live by one of the people who made it happen.
Monday | 10.24 What: The Chills w/Unwed Sailor When: 7 Where: Marquis Theater Why: The Chills are touring in support of the thirtieth anniversary of its album Soft Bomb. But regardless of the occasion it’s The Chills, the legendary New Zealand pop band whose songwriting helped to define the “Dunedin sound” branch of New Zealand rock music with jangle guitar sounds that one has to assume helped to inform what became C86 and thus indiepop as we know it. New Zealand bands rarely come through Denver much less a foundational group like The Chills whose leader Martin Phillipps has made such a deep impact on popular music his influence would make an interesting book or documentary.
Monday | 10.24 What:Bit Brigade w/Mr. Pacman and Adam Newman When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bit Brigade performs on somewhat standard instrumentation very legit renditions of the music from various 8 and 16-bit video games. So who from Denver makes sense to open the show but Mr. Pacman whose own musical connection to video games is not so obvious except for the name and how its members dress up as characters from a long lost super hero team cartoon themed after Pacman but the music is like a fusion of punk, performance art and synth pop in a way that is intense and mysterious and always entertaining.
Tuesday | 10/25 What: Dayglow w/Ritt Momney When: 7 Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Sloan Struble of Dayglow got his start recording and producing music at eleven years old with Garageband. While still a teen he had a project called Kindred that released one self-titled album in 2016 and in that music you hear his knack for crafting electronic pop with a sense of vulnerability and self-awareness. A lot of bedroom pop is fairly lacking in production chops but even that Kindred record though fairly minimal and lo-fi demonstrates a clear working within the limitations of available resources to make something that is clearly more ambitious. So when Struble began his next project called Dayglow by the time of his second release Harmony House (2021) there is of course the creative growth but also much more development in how the music is recorded. All of that evolution as an artist can be heard and pushed further in terms of songwriting and sound palette on the 2022 album People In Motion. The blend of R&B, psychedelic pop and indie rock on the album sounds like the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with a much more expansive array of sounds and an accessible immediacy. It may sound like the opposite of a focus on the conflicted energy and tragedy of the current period in human history but having a respite from that heaviness and intensity is what you need at least once in a while and Dayglow offers that aplenty for the duration of a show or an album.
Tuesday | 10.25 What: Minuit Machine and Priest When: 7 Where: HQ Why: Minuit Machine is an industrial darkwave duo based in Paris, France. Its particular brand of brooding dance music is a modern take on EBM with soulful vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 90s era of downtempo and trip-hop or on a The Crystal Method record. Priest includes former members of the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost but this project is not some campy prog metal. But the sense of theatrical presentation of the music is very much there including costumes. And the music is infused with a futuristic aesthetic akin to Nitzer Ebb if that band made industrial disco for cyborgs. Its 2022 sophomore album Body Machine fuses beautiful synth melodies with hard edged, almost martial rhythms like the equivalent of Kraftwerk having emerged in the world of The Terminator and operating in secret underground dance clubs for the discerning cyborg.
Wednesday | 10.26 What:Peel Dream Magazine w/Calamity and Duck Turnstone When: 7 Where: The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Room Why: Joseph Stevens has released three fine full length albums over the past few years under the moniker of Peel Dream Magazine including the 2022 record Pad. The 2018 debut album Modern Meta Physic presented a sound that had obvious musical touchstones in My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground and Stereolab as well as their own sources of inspiration. The hypnotic drones and fuzzy melodies over steady beats an obvious ear for crafting textural aesthetics that helped to shape the structures in the music. 2020’s Agitprop Alterna cemented Stevens’ reputation as a songwriter and artist who could combine heady atmospherics and widely dynamic music with poetic and insightful personal and cultural commentary. With Pad Stevens broke his own mold by swapping in a different sound palette including banjo, chimes, vibraphone and more extensive use of keyboards to create a softer sound that is more reminiscent of Harry Nilsson’s early 70s psychedelic pop albums and like those records there is a creative concept that runs through the album which is a journey in which Stevens is ejected from his own band, which is in most ways a solo project, and undertakes a journey to find a way back in. Though the soothingly dreamlike melodies and free weaving in elements of Bossa Nova and ambient folk gives the album an immediately palatable quality it is about the disconnect and anxieties that have careened into the general culture while taking a chance in finding ways to make connections again and to process the anxiety and trauma in a way that lands us in a better place. It reflects Stevens’ own journey from being a bit of a New York-based outsider to a member of the Los Angeles creative community. The album is worth a deep dive and allow its retro-futuristic sounds and style to sink into your brain with its therapeutic frequencies.
Wednesday | 10.26 What: Eliza & The Delusionals w/BODY When: 6:30 Where: Lost Lake Why: Australian pop band Eliza & The Delusionals release its debut full length album Now And Then in May 2022. The album came along as many have in the wake of the recent and ongoing global pandemic. The songwriting had begun in various stages of development prior to the pandemic and some prior to the group having embarked on the first leg of a big tour of North America in January and February 2020 with The Silversun Pickups. But the period of lockdown and then the prolonged time of not being able to tour with anything resembling reliability left the band with time to hone the songs and create an album that is brimming with a sense of nostalgia and reconnecting with a time in life and a time period in the early 2000s when perhaps if you were a kid in Australia or the USA, depending on life circumstances, you had the time and the ability to allow your imagination and your heart to take in experiences that stimulated both. Connecting with that headspace lending your current self the tools to navigate bringing a bit of that mindset into life today. In the fuzzy and chiming guitar work and singer Eliza Klatt’s melodious and exuberant vocals one hears an introspective articulation of a desire to liberate one self from one’s own limitations and of those imposed on you by circumstance. Opening the show is experimental psychedelic pop band BODY from Denver which includes former members of Ned Garthe Explosion but in a band that is fully embraces its chops and songwriting craft as well as its idiosyncratic sensibilities.
Thursday | 10.27 What: Turnstile w/JPEGMAFIA and Snail Mail When: 6 Where: Mission Ballroom Why: This is a very eclectic bill of all bands from Baltimore. Lindsey Jordan as Snail Mail has been writing some of the most heartfelt and vulnerable, even raw and honest pop songs of recent years as heard perhaps most powerfully on her 2021 album Valentine. Jordan takes painful experiences and transforms them into the kind of songwriting that normalizes the struggle and the will to persevere. JPEGMAFIA is one of the most boundary pushing artists operating today whose work can generally be described as hip-hop but in his beats there is a spirit of experimentalism so that it can weave in the elements you might expect but also industrial music and noise. Turnstile manages to blend what might be described as nü metal and hardcore in a way that is incredibly accessible and subverts the tropes of those genres. Sure there’s the electronic component and aesthetic in its beats and angular guitar riffing and vocals that are melodic even in the shouting. But Turnstile delivers it with more imagination and genuine excitement than most bands coming out of those realms of music in many years.
Thursday | 10.27 What: The Chameleons w/Shadows Tranquil and Emerald Siam When: 7 Where: HQ Why: The Chameleons are the post-punk band that emerged out of the 1980s with a unique and atmospheric guitar sound that one assumes plugged more directly into the sound of groups like Slowdive and Kitchens of Distinction and other shoegaze bands than other groups of the era. For years a version of the band that included only singer Mark Burgess from the original lineup. But this time out brilliant guitarist Reg Smithies is back in the mix so expect some of those classic Chameleons dreamlike guitar wizardry.
Thursday | 10.27 What: Free Music (Minneapolis), Dubble Trouble (cassette release), Yenan Form (debut performance), Goo Age (Orange Milk Records) When: 9 Where: Glob Why: This is going to be the kind of experimental electronic show that is part glitchcore and part that Orange Milk weirdo ambient and New Age strangeness. But it’s also the cassette release of dub and free jazz/glitch/ambient duo Dubble Trouble.
Friday | 10.28 What: Wngdu, Ray Diess, Church Fire and special guest When: 8 Where: Jester’s Palace Why: Denver Blood Cult is presenting this Halloween show featuring charismatic industrial dance group Church Fire who recently put out their powerful new album puppy god. Ray Diess will deliver his sincere and thought-provoking synth pop. DJ Wngdu will officiate the music outside the live music sets proper and likely a surprise guest. All at one of the weirdest newer venues in Downtown Denver.
Friday | 10.28 What: King Bee’s METAMORPHOSIS w/The Milk Blossoms (duo) and DJ Camp Love When: 7 Where: Mercury Café Why: King Bee is the latest project of Fox Linnea Drickey from high concept art pop band Chimney Choir. This current performance is the fifth installment of a multi-episode semi-autobiographical allegory called “Tugboat vs. Tidal Wave” and involves Greek chorus-style theater, performance art, costumes and DJ dance party afterward. Includes David and Carl from Chimney Choir and Cassidy Bacon from The Whimsy of Things/Ghost Tapes and Ben Weinrich of Dandu/Retrofette. Expect inspired and insightful storytelling and a theatrical performance unlike most things most other bands have to offer. Opening is the duo version of experimental pop band The Milk Blossoms whose music makes a true virtue of vulnerability when channeled through richly imagined songwriting.
Friday | 10.28 What:Captured! By Robots w/Axeslasher and Valiomierda When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Captured! By Robots is a grindcore band unlike any other in that the vocalist is human (JBOT) but the musicians in the band are all robots built by JBOT after other human musicians failed him in putting together a reliable project.
Friday through Sunday | 10.28-10.30 What:Front Range Noise Fest When: 6 p.m. each day Where: Glob Why: This is the closest Denver is going to get to one of the noise and experimental electronic festivals that used to happen in the Mile High City regularly. It would be too much of an undertaking to write a blurb on every artist performing but below are the dates with the artist lineups each date. Friday Oct 28th @ Glob Caged Grave Mumble Foans A Light Among Many Solypsis (AZ) New Aged Karen Night Grinder Granular Breath (IA) Lore Saturday Oct 29th @ Glob Boar (IA) Compactor (NY) Demonsleeper (CA) Fleeting Breath (KY) Ghost Dance (MI) Man.Moth (MI) Scuzz Nun (WA) Fresh Bait Maltreatment Many Blessings MPW Sunday Oct 30th @ Glob Rush Falknor (IL) Magical Mind (IL) 0rgan Sounding Gate Fog May Leitz Bunny Showstopper Staff of Loss Herpes Hideaway
Saturday | 10.29 What:Scream Screen with Carbon Dioxide Orchestra When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Carbon Dioxide Ensemble (CO2 Ensemble) is an avant-garde trio from Denver composed of the electronic music composer and the Mile High City’s premier Theremin player Victoria Lundy, her husband and mathematician Thomas Lundy and fellow practitioner of the electronic music arts Mark Mosher whose work in electronic music technology and visual synthesis has been a part of local music and art culture for over a decade. The three met through Mosher’s Rocky Mountain Synth Meet-Up events around 2012 where enthusiasts of that technology and methods for utilizing it in making music would meet up to network and share their passion for synthesizers generally. Shortly into their friendship the Lundys helped to organize an event called Concrete Mixer that has happened a handful of times over the past eight or nine years and a showcase for musique concrète, a type of music composition pioneered by French composer Pierre Schaeffer in the early 1940s with that term coined by Schaeffer in 1948. Those theoretical principles Schaeffer put into practice attracted the interest of composers Pierre Henry, Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen and others including a popularizer of the art form with one of Schaeffer’s students, Jean-Michel Jarre. The technique of manipulating recorded sound can be heard in looping techniques and the use of samples. CO2 Ensemble hearken back to the earlier method but utilize unconventional sound sources including a large, copper heart that Thomas Lundy rubs with pieces of dry ice to generate frequencies that Mosher processes to enhance and render into different musical forms. Victoria Lundy playing Theremin utilizes one of the oldest electronic music technologies having been patented by Leon Theremin in 1928 with a device that is controlled without physical contact by the performer. Everyone has heard one if they’ve watched any 1950s science fiction film with a spooky soundtrack. Working in tandem the CO2 Ensemble generate highly evocative compositions that suggest textures and primal emotional experiences. Victoria Lundy co-founded what was called the Carbon Dioxide Orchestra in the mid-90s employing similar methods but with less emphasis on the electronic production end and in the 2000s and 2010s she was the Theremin player in experimental pop band The Inactivists who are currently, what else, inactive. The Carbon Dioxide Orchestra concept she revived when Concrete Mixer started up. Mosher was the keyboard player for New Wave cover band Head Full of Zombies based in Colorado Springs from 1989-2003 before branching out into making his own music. The group’s current performance will be the live musical portion of Noche de Terror, a double feature of Rubén Galindo Jr’s Cemetery of Terror (1985) and Don’t Panic (1987) presented by Scream Screen creator and host Theresa Mercado. The trio has a shared affection for B science fiction and horror and cult movies as well as the musical avant-garde and their piece prior to the film screening suits well the Halloween season and the films at hand.
Saturday | 10.29 What:Julian Street Nightmare, The Savage Blush and Voight When: 8 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Julian Street Nightmare is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound draws not just on recent darkwave but surf rock and psychedelia. But its songwriting has developed into its own flavor that has a freshness and intensity colored by a moodiness and energy that lends it an edge of unpredictability. The Savage Blush is a local psychedelic garage rock band. Voight bridges the gap between dark, industrial post-punk and techno with a pointed yet self-effacing sense of humor.
Saturday | 10.29 What:Pinkshift w/Jigsaw Youth and Yasmin Nur When: 8 Where: Lost Lake Why: Baltimore’s Pinkshift recently released its debut full-length album Love Me Forever. The record sounds like a lifetime of frustration and processing trauma and oppression put into songs that sound like something Sleater-Kinney might have put out had its members come up a couple of decades later and influenced by the riot grrrl bands that existed prior to and in parallel with S-K as well as early 2000s post-hardcore and emo. There is an irresistible emotional vitality and joy of release of pent up feeling on the record and a directly relatable yearning for a life in a world where you can live free of the yoke of a pervasive authoritarian patriarchal culture. Also on the bill is NYC’s Jigsaw Youth who last came through Denver as an opener for art noise metal group SASAMI. It felt like seeing a band that absorbed the irreverent humor and scorching guitar anthemics of L7 and Betty Blowtorch in finding a true fusion of punk and metal that isn’t rooted in crossover or metalcore. Feral and electrifying stuff.
Sunday | 10.30 What: Smokestack Relics w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 1 p.m. Where: Wax Trax Why: Smokestack Relics are a bluesy Americana duo whose vagabond honky tonk aesthetic that seems obviously influenced by Tom Waits, likely a bit of Hasil Adkins is in there and Scott H. Biram. But the presentation is so eccentric and energetic its definitely not mere imitation. White Rose Motor Oil somehow makes a kind of Americana that isn’t tied to any particular strain of the Colorado variety and for that alone always worth a lisen. But its shows have a warm energy and its music is more akin to country punk-esque bands like Lone Justice and The Beat Farmers. Its beautifully atmospheric 2021 album Oh Lucretia was recently re-released and on cassette.
Monday | 10.31 What:Vision Video w/Radio Scarlet, Redwing Blackbird and Witchhands When: 8 Where: HQ Why: Vision Video is a post-punk band based out of Athens, Georgia whose self-styled Goth pop is infused with gorgeous melodic hooks and emotionally raw and honest lyrics. Visually the band looks like what you might imagine a Goth band from a movie might look like with the appropriate make-up and sartorial flair. But there is something darker and different yet also welcoming about that appearance and in performance, reflecting the ethos of the members of Video Vision who recognize the band and fan dynamic as being one of community. There is disarming earnestness in the songwriting coupled with a clear sense of humor and self-awareness in how Video Vision conduct themselves as people that signals an approachable quality that doesn’t undermine the serious and meaningful content in what the band is putting into its art. In recent years frontman Dusty Gannon has been releasing videos on the Video Vision TikTok in which he adopts the persona of “Goth Dad” who presents information about the Goth subculture in which he came up as well as real life issues with a sense of humor, affection and sincerity in a way that comes across as wholesome, a quality one doesn’t always associate with Goths. In 2022 Vision Video released its second album Haunted Hours, the much anticipated follow-up to its 2021 debut Inked in Red. Fans of The Cult and The Cure will find much to like about the flavor of both records as will anyone looking for modern post-punk with solid production, urgent dance rhythms and songs that really tell it like it is with the state of the world and the importance of embracing your own humanity and that of those around you even and especially as the world seems to be crumbling.
Ray Diess makes experimental electronic dance music and has been playing live under that project name for a few years minus the time of the pandemic when no one much was having shows. His 2022 album It’ll Always Ache released in July 2022 and its blend of synth pop, hyper pop and darkwave has a surprising depth of emotional expression. If you have been out at select shows you may have caught Diess live and his dramatic performances or just run into him making the shows work at places like Jester’s Palace or maybe even seeing him play keys in With Special Guest. He has collaborated on music with confrontational EBM/darkwave artist Hex Cassette and he otherwise seems as involved in his creative community as making the music that is a part of it. We recently caught up with Diess and discussed his background growing up in rural Elizabeth, Colorado and getting into theater and metal and ultimately to where he is now with music that has a similar intensity but a different sound.
Listen to our interview with Ray Diess on Bandcamp linked below and check out It’ll Always Ache on Spotify.
Hex Cassette is an EBM/synth pop/confrontational industrial artist from Denver, Colorado. As the solo project of Zachary Jordan, Hex Cassette has been around since the mid-2010s and his gift for crafting fairly accessible, exuberant dance music with a darkwave flavor has garnered him a bit of a local following among people who not only appreciate his particular style of music but potentially of anyone that would like to see musicians engage with the crowd in a way that is aimed at blurring the line between performer and audience and sharing in a dissolving of a complacent dynamic in live music. His spirited shows involve wicked but benevolent humor including a comical needling of the audience and it wouldn’t be unusual to see Jordan not just roaming the stage but coming off stage with his animated style and bringing that energy into the crowd. His latest release is Pomegranate Death and while the themes of death and mortality and irreverence for stuffy, traditional religion and culture remains a feature from the music of Hex Cassette in general, the album is also one that injects into the mix expressions of hopefulness and seeking to live a vital existence. All set to some of the most vibrant electronic music you’re likely to hear all year.
Hex Cassette celebrates the release of the album on June 10, 2022 at Jester’s Palace with other local darkwave greats Church Fire and eHpH as well as experimental indie rock artist Pink Lady Monster. The show is also the tour kickoff for Hex Cassette who will be headed out on a mini-tour of the west where you will be able to purchase a, yes, cassette copy of Pomegranate Death. Listen to our interview with Jordan on Bandcamp linked below.
Friday | 06.03 What:Scream Screen: Sisters w/Quits When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: Theresa Mercado is hosting her latest Scream Screen series this month with various bands opening the proceedings. Tonight it’s Brian De Palma’s 1972 psychological horror film Sisters starring future Lois Lane from the 1978 Superman movie. Opening are local noise rock legends Quits and their eruptive, cathartic and always riveting live show. Will be strange to see this in the front of the theater at Sie Film Center so that would be worth going to see alone.
Saturday | 06.04 What:Five Points Jazz Festival When: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. Where: Various Venues Why: It’s free and you can catch a bevy of local and some non-local modern jazz greats like Buckner Funken Jazz, Denver Jazz Trio, Five Points Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Annie Booth Sextet, Ron Ivory and Suite ti and Las Luces featuring educator and local avant-garde jazz legend Joshua Trinidad.
Saturday | 06.04 What: Fear w/The Potato Pirates and Cease Fire https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/417884 When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Rescheduled from NYE 2021. FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving having turned 72 in 2022 this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.
Sunday | 06.05 What:Tomberlin w/Jana Horn When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Tomberlin’s new record, her second, i don’t know who needs to hear this… (2022) is like an atmospheric jazz pop record with her vocals at the center and a truly imaginative soundscape ghosting into the background to haunt the spare beat and minimal instrumentation. If the songwriter’s sound and style can be lumped into the broadly clumsy umbrella of folk it’s more in the vein of artists who made liberal use of field recordings but in this case it’s more like taking an interest in a sound and a sample like one might if one were a hip-hop or electronic music artist looking to give a beat some character and unconventional emotional resonance. Tomberlin’s vocals are of course the usual strong but gentle flavor one would hope for but she always seems to find a way to use it guide he mood while syncing with the rhythm in ways that keep the vibe fresh and evocative.
Tuesday | 06.07 What: Blackwater Holylight w/Spirit Mother and Keefduster When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Much in a similar way that SubRosa brought a tribal, deeply atmospheric, psychedelic sensibility to heavy music, Blackwater Holylight takes some of the grit and heft of doom but lightens in with broad atmospheric and moody vistas of sound. Its 2021 album Silence/Motion includes a nice element of the electronic so that it sounds like it could and should be a soundtrack to the next Panos Cosmatos film. But there’s nothing kitsch about Blackwater Holylight. Denver’s Keef Duster will bring its own flavor of psychedelic doom/space rock to open the show with former Dirty Few singer Kim Phat bringing some entrancing melodies into the mix.
Wednesday | 06.08 What:Failure w/sneak peek at Failure documentary When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Failure got started in the early era of what came to be called alternative rock having founded in 1990 in Los Angeles right before the glam metal that seemed ubiquitously popular tanked in the next two years once early alternative rock bands like Jane’s Addiction helped to popularize music that had been in the underground with its successful Lollapalooza tour subverted the record industry. Failure enjoyed some of the fallout of that time but its own music didn’t exactly fit in with trendy styles and sounds. It had a hard rock edge, an art rock ambition in the songwriting and atmospheric sensibilities that some might have associated with shoegaze or space rock but very much its own flavor. Its mid-90s albums Magnified (1994) and Fantastic Planet (1996) showed how you could meld heavy, monolithic, deeply dynamic sounds with blissful melodies in a way that had a cinematic quality that the band members would bring to the more sound design approach to composition it would perfect when it reunited in 2013 after a six year hiatus. Since that reconvening it might be argued that Failure has been releasing the best music of its career with its sublimely dark dissonance and nuanced emotional palette including its 2021 album Wild Type Droid. For this show you will get a preview of the forthcoming documentary about the band due out in 2023 featuring interviews with the broad array of artists (not all musical) who have been impacted by Failure’s particular brand of sonic magic.
Thursday | 06.09 What:Insane Angel, Grunkster, Sell Farm, French Kettle Station When: 9 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Insane Angel is an unusual amalgam of jazz, indie pop and folk and includes members of Horn Horse and Palberta. Grunkster is kind of like a lo-fi IDM/glitch pop project. Sell Farm is hard to quantify easily but has been part indiepop, part dub, part cavernous industrial in the Godflesh vein minus the metallic aspects. French Kettle Station is an eclectic artist whose output runs a broad range of ideas and aesthetics though one might hear in his work aspects of New Age pop, glitchcore, ambient, post-rock and croony classic pop and always an energetic, commanding performance.
Thursday | 06.09 What: Black Angels w/Dion Lunadon When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Before being thoroughly associated with modern psychedelic rock and even long after, The Black Angels from Austin, TX were early adopters of blurring all lines between early psychedelic rock, Krautrock, shoegaze, freak folk and noise rock. And to this day its body of work endures because they have always been one of the best practitioners of modern psych including advocating for other artists with its formerly annual (currently on hiatus) Austin Psych Fest, one of the most astutely curated festivals of the modern era. Dion Lunadon spent a decade playing in and writing songs with A Place to Bury Strangers but is releasing his first solo album since leaving APTBS in 2020 with Beyond Everything due out June 10, 2022 on In the Red Records. Early singles promise a driving, noisy psychedelic rock album with the dynamic flourishes that Lunadon brought so masterfully to APTBS and The D4.
Friday | 06.10 What:Hex Casette album release, Church Fire, eHpH and Pink Lady Monster When: 7 p.m. Where: Jester’s Palace Why: For a handful of years Hex Cassette has been crafting and refining his style of confrontational industrial dance pop music and in the past year or two he started to become known in the underground for highly energetic performances informed by a darkly playful sense of humor. For this show he’s releasing his new album Pomegranate Death, a collection of songs that fans of M83 and TR/ST will appreciate for the immersive melodies and underlying hopeful mood even as many of the songs are about death and overcoming personal challenges to embrace a vital life. And sure Hex Cassette is one of the most exciting of the newer projects in the Denver underground but for this album release/tour kick off show, Hex Cassette has invited spirited and political industrial dance, synth pop heroes Church Fire whose own shows are cathartic and deeply emotional without skimping on the enthusiasm and energy to balance out the sense of despair and melancholic mood that is part of some of its material honoring loss and recognizing elements of our culture hostile to the the very existence and dignity of people that don’t fit into a very conservative view of mainstream society. There is also eHpH, the EBM/industrial band whose own music takes aim at fascism and authoritarian impulses in American culture and whose evocative soundscapes and irresistible rhythms have made it a staple in local darkwave circles for several years. Former Corda Vera front person Simone Fohrman has been at her solo project Pink Lady Monster since 2020 with its blend of dream pop and indie rock with an experimental flourish in the production and signal processing.
Friday | 06.10 What: Ambar Lucid w/Miki Ratsula When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Ambar Lucid taught herself to play piano, guitar and ukulele and took in YouTube videos to work on her vocal technique. And her output of music since 2019 reflects that generation of pop artists that isn’t defined by narrow conventions of the art form. In her sound and production you hear the R&B influence, her Latin music roots, the influence of hyper pop and perhaps forward thinking artists like Charli XCX. It’s a pure fusion of styles and aesthetics she has made her own as evidenced by her 2020 album Garden of Lucid and her new single “girl ur so pretty.” Lucid’s own life sounds like something from a movie as her father was deported to Mexico when she was 8 years old and she didn’t see him or her sister until ten years later. Which speaks to issues of immigration and how the laws surrounding that have a direct impact on people and their families and the intimate knowledge of which is part of why the songwriter has been such an active advocate for immigrants’ rights. Sharing the bill with Lucid is non-binary pop songwriter Miki Ratsula whose R&B infused songs with colorful and evocative music videos are in themselves an act of resistance to prejudice in being so appealing and imaginative in making everyday life for a non-binary person seem like what it is—normal and not short on joy and fulfillment in ways that are accessible to anyone. Miki’s March 2022 debut album i owe it to myself is filled with ample examples of the aforementioned.
Friday | 06.10 What:Scream Screen: Madhouse w/Weathered Statues When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This edition of Scream Screen will give you a chance to see in a theater Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 slasher Madhouse in which one sister is stalked by her psychotic twin. The film was included on the “video nasty” list in its day and banned in the 1980s in the UK. Opening will be local post-punk/Xmal Deutschland-esque band Weathered Statues.
Saturday | 06/11 What:Sunflower Bean w/Liily When: 8 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: When Sunflower Bean started garnering a national audience after the release of its debut album Human Ceremony in 2016 it seemed as though the band’s fusion of post-punk and shoegaze aimed it in a particular musical direction but since then up to and including its 2022 album Headful of Sugar the trio has embraced its knack for pop songcraft and hooks. The new record showcases a band able to write coolly sultry R&B-inflected songs that fit in with its own history of lushly atmospheric songs that can be not just melancholically evocative but subtly cathartic. If one were into overblown comparisons for the song “Who Put You Up To This?” it’s like hearing Cocteau Twins after they sequestered themselves in a studio and only listened to Delfonics and Marvin Gaye for a few months before writing their next record.
Saturday | 06.11 What:Big Head Todd and the Monsters w/Violent Femmes When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Todd Park Mohr is bar none the most prominent Colorado musician of Asian ancestry and his band Big Head Todd and The Monsters have been crafting a respectable body of work that blends rock, folk, alternative rock and jazz with an ear for improvisational flourishes. Starting in Boulder in 1984 the group really pulled together a solid set of songs for its 1990 second album Midnight Radio. Reworking its best song “Bittersweet” for its 1993 release Sister Sweetly the group hit upon a formula that took it from prominent local band to platinum selling act whose music was prominent on radio for the rest of the decade. And since the 90s Big Head Todd has been releasing worthwhile albums if you’re into blues rock bordering on jam band folk rock. Opening the show is long time college rock cult band Violent Femmes whose music became a staple of alternative radio since the early 80s with its 1983 self-titled debut with every track more or less a classic of a world of music upon which alternative rock in the 1990s was built. Beyond the eccentric and brilliant songwriting part punk, part folk and part outsider music Violent Femmes have long been one of the great live bands of, yes, American music and would be worth going to see for this show alone but you get to see two greats of the alternative era.
Saturday | 06.11 What:Still Corners w/Foxes in Fiction When: 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: UK dream pop band Still Corners create warmly contemplative songs with a dusky soulfulness that has translated well from its early very ethereal, shoegaze-y material to its more countrified 2021 album The Last Exit and its imagery of open vistas in the American west. Not quite in the realm of Chromatics in its evocation of Lynchian noir but like something inspired by a romantic version of a Jonathan Demme slice of working class Americana.
Saturday and Sunday | 06.11 and 06.12 What: Purity Ring w/EKKSTACY When: 8 p.m. and 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom and Boulder Theater Why: Purity Ring’s production style established firmly on its 2012 debut album Shrines has proven incredibly influential on modern electronic pop and hip-hop. Its own amalgamation of dream pop, hip-hop and witch house is otherworldly and transporting and in its music you can hear the future of forms of electronic music like hyper pop and glitchcore because Purity Ring has already been there and moved on to other realms of soundscaping and the crafting of emotionally resonant sounds, textures and dynamics. Having worked with Danny Brown and Katy Perry, the duo’s stylistic flexibility has resulted in albums brimming concepts and sound design elements rendered as coherent songs that are sure to be tapped for years to come. Its live show is more theatrical and unusual that one might expect as the group uses devices to control sound and lighting that it had to make itself so the presentation is always compellingly unconventional.
Sunday | 06.12 What:Everclear w/Fastball and The Nixons When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Before singles from the 1995 Everclear album Sparkle and Fade made the band stars of later era alterative rock singer and primary songwriter Art Alexakis had already been through the ups and downs of being a musician, drug addiction and parenthood and was in his mid-30s to late 30s when his band took off, breaking many stereotypes of musical success. Songs like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “Everything to Everyone” were all but ubiquitous on Top 40 radio and stations with alternative rock heavy playlists. But inside all of those songs were nuggets of wisdom and a raw honesty that was suffused in the band’s live performances. By the turn of the century Everclear didn’t enjoy the commercial popularity it once had and key members of the band had departed by 2003 but Alexakis has continued on doing what he does best: write meaningful songs that shed light on the human condition with wit, humor and compassion. One record that has gone by the wayside was the group’s fantastic 1993 debut album World of Noise which is being reissued in 2022 and for the first time on vinyl in the fall. People who only know the band from its hits may be surprised with how raw and vital it is like something you might expect from an early grunge or punk band of that time but also with Alexakis’ gift for an ear worm hook. Celebrating the re-issue of the record Everclear is touring with other late alternative rock bands Fastball and The Nixons for a billing of bands who experienced their greatest success in the 90s but who remain potent live acts.
Sunday | 06.12 What: Dragon Drop, Cau5er, sororityboy, Juniordeer and sintax When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: If you were to pick one show to go see some of the best and most imaginative underground electronic artists from Denver in the vein of hyper pop, industrial noise and glitch pop this would be the show to go see.
Tuesday | 06.14 What: Compactor, Sleeping With The Earth, No More Cheering, Cremedelacrvp, Tolerant When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Okay, this would be the other show to go see some electronic acts that take soundscaping to another level except this bill includes New York industrial noise legends Compactor, Portland, Oregon-based ambient noisenik Sleeping With The Earth and harsh noise/power electronics artist Cremedelacrvp.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:These Arms Are Snakes w/Git Some When: 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: These Arms Are Snakes is a post-hardcore band that gets lumped in with the genres of metalcore and mathcore and there is some validity to that. But a lot of its music is closer to noise rock and the new compilation of its early demos and non-album tracks and other odds and ends Duct Tape & Shivering Crows (which came out on April 15, 2022 on Suicide Squeeze Records) bears out how this band could elude easy categorization. It includes former members of 90s metalcore pioneers Botch and experimental rock band Kill Sadie. The band’s wiry, sonic savagery had a kind of brutal fluidity to it that seemed to have come out of that era of post-hardcore that included synthesizers to give its music more than the bare bones rock band level of impact with atmospherics that felt as dreamlike as it did visceral. Opening the show are like-minded Denver noise rock legends Git Some who never broke up but rarely play live and itself includes former members of Planes Mistaken For Stars and Luke Fairchild from Quits. So this show will definitely get a little off the hook with the energy and intensity.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:Whores w/Bummer and Capra When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Atlanta’s Whores sound like a glorious, mutant hybrid of Unsane and Big Black. But if you’re into KARP or Helmet’s more free moments you’ll appreciate the band’s spirited onslaught. Bummer from Kansas City released its latest album Dead Horse (as in beating a—clear proof of the group’s dark sense of humor including about itself because someone probably told them they sound like they’re doing that after all these years making music like this) in 2021. It shares obvious influences from the likes of KARP and the Amphetamine Reptile roster of bands like Cherubs and The Jesus Lizard. But its sound is very different from the style of Whores with more spiraling guitar riffs and open harmonic flourishes. They have a song on Dead Horse called “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick” and even if you’re a fan of the Boss the song title is irreverently puerile for a song that’s a psychedelic noise scorcher with undeniable appeal. Capra from Lafayette, LA fills out this line-up with its own pointed and noisy metalcore with incredible momentum and a brutal grace.
Wednesday | 06.15 What:Hovvdy w/Mini Trees When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Austin-based band Hovvdy released its most recent album True Love in 2021 and like many other artists are finally able to take that music on the road. The hushed vocal harmonies paired with lush and richly layered instrumental arrangements are part of the duo’s core sound but this time around the tender and intimate sound hits with a little more of the gentle warmth that characterized its earlier work and its songs of heartbreak and hope seem imbued with a spirit of thoughtful introspection that offers a perspective beyond hokey pronouncements that everything is going to be okay. Rather, the hard times and misfortune that seems to have visited the entire world and rushed into everyone’s lives require a much more nuanced take and response on even the minutiae of life and Hovvdy brings the type of nurturing energy to this batch of songs that would benefit many people to hear.
Thursday | 06.16 What:Bestial Mouths w/Lowfaith and Turismo Blu When: 8 p.m. Where: Fritzy’s Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with Denver-based post-punk band Lowfaith and acid house artist Turismo Blu.
Thursday | 06.16 What:Bob Log III w/Bolonium and Legs When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Bob Log III was once a member of mutant blues rock duo Doo Rag and was doing that sort of Mississippi Delta blues mixed with punk thing before a lot of people got around to that by the mid-to-late 90s. By the end of the 90s Bob had gone on his own with his current moniker as a solo act with his The Road Warrior meets Troma sartorial aesthetic and somehow makes his music seem futuristic even as it embraces old time blues with no irony. Bolonium is a Denver band whose own stylistic link to Troma should seem obvious as its antics have included a live game show during its set but its music is somewhere betwixt an even more cartoon-y Devo and They Might Be Giants and with all the kitsch of a very self-aware but never giving up the joke Adult Swim show skit as band.
Friday | 06/17 What: Scream Screen: The Mafu Cage w/Shocker Mom When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This edition of Scream Screen features Karen Arthur’s 1978 psychodrama The Mafu Cage. The titular creatures, the “mafus,” are the pet monkeys one of the mentally unbalanced Cissy played by Carol Kane whose sister Ellen (Lee Grant) is an astronomer. There is some demented dynamic between the two sisters who share a mansion in Los Angeles but for the exact plot it’s perhaps best viewed rather than read about in summary. The musical guest is Shocker Mom whose brilliant blend of soulful R&B, ambient music and IDM isn’t something you get to see often enough. Robin Walker aka Shocker Mom is also one half of experimental hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus.
Saturday | 06.18 What:Jerry Paper w/Bobby Amulet and Sell Farm When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Jerry Paper is one of the more imaginative hip-hop producers/artists to have emerged out of the 2000s. Their records, especially those for respected and forward thinking label Stones Throw, always seem to have some unusual and creative approach to songwriting and sound sculpting so that even when their beats wax into cosmic yacht rock territory they don’t skimp on the forays into weird realms of sound. Their latest record is the psychedelic and chill Free Time. Bobby Amulet from Denver is the musical moniker of Connor Spell whose own affection for lush, adult-contemporary-esque disco sounds are a good fit on a bill with Jerry Paper. Sell Farm? You don’t really know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be interesting whether it’s the more dub flavoring in the indiepop realm or epic soundscapes or whatever it is the group will be up to this time around.
Sunday | 06.19 What:Blitzen Trapper w/Laney Jones When: 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavillion Why: Blitzen Trapper is one of the bands that really introduced the easy listening 70s adult contemporary vibe back into indie folk in a big way. But they’ve managed to evolve a great deal as a band and refine their sound from early alt-country roots into a finely honed blend of 70s laid back rock, folk and jazz. Opening Laney Jones’ new album Stories Up High has more personal psychological insight than many things you’ll hear this year. Her voice is warm, strong and vulnerable with her signature, subtle vibrato. And that coupled with orchestral musical arrangements and expansive and deeply textured guitar work makes every track linger in your heart with a rich emotional resonance.
Sunday | 06.19 What:ABANDONS, New Standards Men and Shauna Corinne Murray Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: ABANDONS from Denver might be described as post-metal or post-rock but its creative ambitions are wider than that. They mix samples and vocals in with their linger and slow burning atmospherics particularly on “Coffee Highway.” But songs like “Ghost Ranch” and “Cotopaxi” the spiraling riffs and feedback sculpting wax unconventionally psychedelic. In that way they are regularly a good fit on a bill with New Standards Men whose own hybrid of psychedelia, noise rock and Krautrock through a classic art rock lens is never fully predictable in a way that is consistently refreshing. Shauna Corinne Murray used to be based in Portland, Oregon but now hails from Albuquerque but her singer-songwriter compositions on piano are informed by a touch of the avant-garde.
Monday | 06.20 What: Lo Moon w/Social Animals When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: When Lo Moon emerged with a public presence in 2016 it seemed to have its aesthetic, sound, production and media engagement strategy fully formed while maintaining a bit of mystique about its origins. Like it had been around for years writing that music and resisting the normal urge to put it out into the world in an era when it would have been easy to do so. That approach apparently worked for the Los Angeles quarter because its 2018 self-titled album came out on major label Columbia. Its blend of dream pop and rock shaped by an ear for production and the role of a strong live mix in creating powerfully evocative moods garnered the band an opening slot for the 2017 leg of Ride’s reunion tour before having an album out. In 2022 the group finally released its sophomore album A Modern Life even after Columbia dropped the band during the latter part of its recording process. The album builds on the virtues of its earlier material while taking a different direction in the songwriting emphasizing more the lush R&B side of its sonic palette and more akin to contemporaries like Private World and seeming stylistic nods to Tears For Fears.
What:Empath w/Supreme Joy When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Empath has evolved various sounds during the course of its existence and its 2022 album Visitor is its most experimental offering yet. If the band can still be called punk based on impressions of its earlier albums at this point Empath has embraced a synth-infused dream pop approach that fans of early Japanese Breakfast might appreciate. But songs like “Born 100 Times” has more than a bit of the energetic, noisy weirdness that points most directly to its more punk origins. But really this band’s music has always resisted easy categorization after the manner of many bands from Philadelphia where no matter the genre tag might be placed on its sound it doesn’t quite fit and in the case of Empath the world of music is just that much more interesting.
Tuesday | 06.21 What:Weval When: 7 p.m. Where: Meow Wolf Why: Dutch production duo Weval has been assembling some of the most imaginative electronic dance music around since 2013. Its use of vibrant analog synth tones in its tracks and meditative yet irresistible rhythms builds with layers of colorful melodies that hit with a soothing physicality. Its 2021 EP Changed for the Better and 2022 four-song release Time Goes reveal Weval’s ability to go beyond its early production style into something that evokes a sense of exploration and wonder with songs that have a fresh quality in where Weval tie texture to atmosphere in a dynamic flow that engrossingly dreamlike.
Wednesday | 06.22 What: Modern English When: 7 p.m. Where: Soiled Dove Underground Why: Modern English is obviously most known for its 1982 hit single “I Melt With You.” Likely lumped in with the “New Wave” of the time the undeniably catchy yet meaningful song with its cool vocal dynamics was really only a sample of where the group came from. Based out of Colchester in the east of the UK Modern English came up at a time when its early, brooding, post-punk songs fit right in with the likes of contemporaries like Magazine, Joy Division and The Sound. Its 1981 debut album Mesh & Lace is much darker and more experimental than 1982’s After the Snow but both albums represent Modern English’s ability to navigate a variety of moods without being stuck in a particular mode of expression so that it could embrace when the mind waxes to melancholia as well as times of joyful celebration of connection. After some mishaps the rest of the 80s with record labels and not quite being able to match the commercial success of its most famous single the band split by 1991. Upon convening in the mid-90s Modern English didn’t seem too prolific in the releasing of songs or albums its 2016 comeback record Take Me to the Trees bridges the breadth of its songwriting styles and flavors well with songs worthy of its first two records and as a live band the quintet still brings that passion and emotional nuance to its performances that struck a chord with audiences early on its career.
Wednesday | 06.22 What:Lesser Care w/don’t get lemon, Natural Violence When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Lesser Care from El Paso, Texas is one of the closest bands we’ll see to a pure shoegaze and post-punk hybrid in the vein of The Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction. Though its exquisitely ethereal melodies are the stuff of daydream bliss the trio performs with an energetic intensity one might more expect from a group that came out of punk. Its 2022 album Underneath, Beside Me gets released on vinyl in July. don’t get lemon from Austin comes from a similar sonic perspective but more electronic in its establishing of mood with a production style that is right out of lo-fi darkwave but with uplifting vocals that sit in the urgent dynamic of its flow of sounds not unlike a more dream pop early Depeche Mode. Natural Violence might be more techno-infused post-punk noise with a strong performance art element or maybe former School Knights and current American Culture guitarist Michael Stein will be exploring a new vista of sound for his imaginative songwriting.
Wednesday | 06.22 What: Windhand w/Un https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/426122 When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand has been crafting cosmic, psychedelic doom since its 2008 inception. Its most recent album Eternal Return (2018) is a fuzz-laden journey into mythological constructs of emotional and psychological spaces. Its hypnotic rhythms and Dorthia Cottrell’s powerful and sultry vocals are reminiscent of some of Kylesa’s more meditative yet moments. Seattle’s Un is more in the realm of heavy, contemplative post-rock with an knack for evoking the otherworldly with a processional elegance paired with a feral sensibility once the songs take flight.
Wednesday | 06.22 What:5 Seconds of Summer w/Pale Waves When: 5:30 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: 5 Seconds of Summer is a pretty standard mainstream pop act and one of the biggest people who normally read previews for this site may not know about. But it’s songwriting is strong enough and its musicianship accomplished enough there’s no need to be embarrassed by being into its pop hooks. Sure they got their start as YouTube stars and got a bump up into an international audience touring with One Direction but also managed to parlay these breaks into a large international fandom on the merits of its own creative work. But a major reason to go to this show as well is opening act Pale Waves. Underneath the effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Its forthcoming album Unwanted releases on August 12, 2022.
Friday | 06.24 What: Scream Screen: Ginger Snaps w/Dead Boyfriend When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Sie Film Center Why: This iteration of June’s Scream Screen will be a showing of Ginger Snaps (2000) directed by John Fawcett. It’s about a pair of sisters one of whom, the titular Ginger, becomes a werewolf and goes on a bit of a killing rampage that comes to a head by the end of the film. No spoilers. The musical act opening the proceedings is Dead Boyfriend whose recorded output suggests a lo-fi indie/bedroom pop aesthetic with delicately raw emotional sensibilities that fans of early Joanna Newsom or Dear Nora might appreciate.
Saturday | 06.25 What:True Brewing Bacchanal: Khemmis, Panopticon, Hulder, Vastum and Dreadnought When: 6 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: True Brewing is the metal themed brewery on Broadway in Denver and this mini-festival features some of the better local and not so local metal bands running. Khemmis’ psychedelic doom has struck a chord with audiences far beyond Denver with its intricate melodies and songwriting chops. Dreadnought puts a different flavor into the mix of doom with keyboards adding a layer of dynamic atmosphere and a touch of classical sensibility. Hulder is a Belgian/American solo black metal project based out of Portland. Her latest album offers her signature flood of crushing riffs and Cascadian atmospherics but also a touch of the more ambient side of the songwriting. The hovering riffs over propulsive drumming from its new album The Eternal Fanfare is something we have come to expect from a solo black metal act but the songwriter sounds like a being from myth declaring tales of a perilous future but not one without its share of glory and adventure.
Saturday | 06.25 What: Goo Age, Hippies Wearing Muzzles, Sleepdial and Lowern When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Goo Age is Garrett Williamson and Adrian Wright who craft New Age music seemingly with analog synths and sequencers for a sound like an 80s video game about going on vacation and having playful adventures in a mostly benevolent landscape. It’s like Art of Noise or Anne Dudley solo but scoring the aforementioned video game that doesn’t involve killing other creatures or exploiting the environment but, rather, creative achievements and those more down to earth and not dire. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is the analog synth project of Lee Evans, bassist of slop pop band Kissing Party. Sleepdial is one of the projects of Luke Thinnes aka French Kettle Station but in the past Sleepdial has been his guitar driven ambient music though these days who can say exactly what you’ll see.
Saturday | 06.25 What:Kamasi Washington When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Kamasi Washington is the rare modern jazz leader whose work as a saxophonist in conjunction with other artists and collaborators and his work as a sideman is so powerfully expressive he can uplift and break your heart without having to utter a word, such is the mastery of his musicianship as guided by a superior creative imagination with his craft. He hasn’t put out an album since the epochal Heaven and Earth in 2018 though he has done music with Dinner Party which features other jazz greats Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and 9th Wonder. In the live setting where he can improv and push his compositions beyond their usual bounds is where Washington shins brightest.
Tuesday and Wednesday | 06.28 and 06.29 What: Fleet Foxes w/Tim Bernardes When: 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom and Vilar Performing Arts Center (Beaver Creek) Why: Fleet Foxes are one of the best and most creative bands out of the indie folk milieu of the 2000s. Before going on hiatus in 2013 after the departure of longtime member Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes were something of an indie rock supergroup with more than one gifted songwriter in the band. But since reconvening in 2016 the band has pushed its sound in interesting directions and perhaps most distinctively with its 2020 album Shore and its evocatively delicate and sensitive compositions informed by a taking stock of life and sussing out what feels like needs to be said and despite orchestral soundscapes has a refreshing simplicity.
Thursday | 06.30 What:Kraftwerk 3-D When: 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Kraftwerk has to be considered among the most influential bands of the past five decades and more as pioneers of putting synthesizers into music equal parts visionary pop, art rock and the avant-garde. Every synth pop band or derivations thereof are all descended from Kraftwerk’s unique and idiosyncratic songwriting and soundcraft. Every techno artist and DJ culture practitioner owes a great deal to Kraftwerk’s experiments in sound. Its early recordings included more than a few not purely electronic instruments but as the band evolved through the 70s and the 80s it ditched even acoustic percussion in favor of the electronic equivalent even if it didn’t dispense with the physicality of its sound both futuristic and minimal and immediately accessible even its stranger moments. For this tour you will get to see its 3-D presentation at Red Rocks with 3-D projections that anyone who has seen these shows can tell you add an experiential dimension to the music that listening to it at home can’t fully replicate with Kraftwerk itself delivering a powerful performance even without “rocking out” as its members finely control its orchestrated flow of deeply evocative sounds. The 2020 tour had to be canceled because of the early stage of the pandemic and this revamping of the presentation from previous 3-D tours from Kraftwerk will prove that the band doesn’t really rest on false laurels.
What:Baroness When: 7 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.
Friday | 04.01 What:Brandon Wald (owner of Black Ring Ritual Records out of ND), Viator, Many Blessings, Maltreatment, Tripp Nasty and MPW When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: There aren’t too many noise shows or places to see noise in Denver these days meaning a form of music/sound art is hard to come by in the live setting where it is best experienced. But this show will include local stars like Many Blessings aka Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man doing his harsh industrial noise project and Tripp Nasty whose body of work is so diverse and broad that some of it is in the realm of noise so who knows how that will manifest for this show so just best to go if you’re so inclined. Brandon Wald runs Black Ring Ritual Records, home to some of the more prime noise records and tapes of the last several years and his own noise is part power electronics, abstract industrial, harsh ambient and musique concrète.
Friday | 04.01 What:The Blue Rider w/Cleaner and Wes Watkins When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Psychedelic garage rock band The Blue Rider hasn’t been playing much in recent years since Mark Shusterman has been busy playing in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So catch the always surprisingly powerful and brain expanding show with Wes Watkins who has been involved in a variety of projects over the years like Wheel Chair Sports Camp and the aforementioned Night Sweats. But his own music betwixt jazz, R&B and funk is worthwhile in its own right.
Friday and Saturday | 04.01 and 04.02 What: The Goddamn Gallows & Scott H. Biram w/JD Pinkus When: 8 p.m. both nights Where:Larimer Lounge (04.01) and Swing Station (Laporte, CO on 04.02) Why: The Goddamn Gallows sound like something you’d get if you mixed a scuzzy punk band, some murder ballad honky tonk and Black Sabbath. Scott H. Biram plays solo and while many men of his ethnic persuasion have abused the blues and country in ways largely boring and unforgiveable, Biram’s songwriting is so strong, diverse and sincere yet poetic he’ll make you forget those other guys that served as a blight in blues clubs for decades. JD Pinkus is indeed the bass player of Butthole Surfers and member of Honky. But this tour showcases his fragmented, haunted psychedelic country material. His 2021 album Fungus Shui is the peak of that aesthetic as crafted by Pinkus thus far.
Monday | 04.04 What: Spiritualized When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: With the 2022 album Everything Was Beautiful expected out on April 22, 2022, Jason Pierce finds yet another way to blend freaky, spooky yet warmly engaging folk with space rock in ways transporting and transcendent. The roller coaster dynamic of late 90s music has long since given way to lush orchestral builds that flow in unpredictable yet satisfying directions so that listening to the album gets your brain to go down a different path than previous records from Pierce. With any luck the live show will reflect this bright aspects of this album without losing the dark cool that has made the songwriter’s material so fascinating since his early days with Spacemen 3.
Tuesday | 04.05 What:SASAMI w/Jigsaw Youth When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why:Squeeze, the 2022 album from SASAMI, is definitely a departure from the songwriter’s 2019 self-titled debut. Whereas there was a deeply chill energy to the downtempo aspect of that album, there is a more distorted and visceral quality to Squeeze that seems like a mirror image of the wonderfully ethereal quality of that first record. This might seem like too wide a stylistic swing, Sasami Ashworth has had a very eclectic career playing in Cherry Glazerr and contributing to albums by artists as widely different as Vagabon and Wild Nothing. Ashworth explores metallic sounds and much more aggressive song dynamics this time around while pushing the boundaries of her knack for pop songcraft with songs that sound sometimes metal, sometimes industrial, sometimes grunge and all made accessible. Fans of the broad spectrum of St. Vincent’s catalog would appreciate what SASAMI has been doing the past few years and beyond.
Tuesday | 04.05 What:girl in red w/Holly Humberstone When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: girl in red is the performance moniker of Marie Ulven Ringheim whose guitar pop has garnered critical acclaim beyond her home country of Norway. Her 2021 debut album if i could make it go quiet found the songwriter expanding beyond the bedroom pop compositions and recordings that brought her to prominence and it charts her struggles with the various ways in which one’s mind can sabotage your life. In addressing these personal demons in such a direct, honest and relatable way with such luminously warm melodies Ringheim doesn’t insult herself or the listener by suggesting something as trite as it’s all going to work out. Her depictions of the head spaces in which you can get stuck seem so vivid and immediate that they seem like something you can overcome or at least survive and dare to want more for yourself and reach for it than you seem to think is possible when you’re in the depths of your own personal hell.
Tuesday | 04.05 What:Hiatus Kaiyote When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.
Wednesday | 04.06 What: Charli XCX w/Baby Tate When: 06:30 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: This show should probably be at a bigger venue but hey you get a chance to see Baby Tate before word gets out that her sex positive songs aren’t all production in the studio and in music videos. Sure, her mom is Dionne Farris who hopefully most people remember from her time in Arrested Development before branching out into a popular music career under her own name. But Baby Tate’s confidence isn’t just swagger, regardless of subject matter and word choice there is a deft and creative wordplay that syncs her words with the always imaginative beats with a fine ear for the use of bass that one doesn’t hear in enough hip-hop these days. Fans of Kari Faux should probably give Baby Tate a listen. And of course headlining is Charli XCX who is touring in support of her 2022 album Crash. Whether the record is the end of a chapter in the pop star’s career or hinting at a more experimental future direction, the singer sounds as confident as ever and the eclectic influences are on display so that beyond the typically strong vocals the driving bass of post-punk and the expert electronic dance music production allows for all elements to flow freely together in a way divergent from the hyperpop aesthetic of earlier offerings. Of all the pop songwriters in the mainstream, Charli XCX has long been one of the more consistently inventive and fascinating whose lyrics also hit as poignant and poetic.
Thursday | 04.07 What:CELE Presents: Chihei Hatakeyama w/Carl Ritger and Wind Tide When: 7-11 p.m. Where: 860 Vallejo St. (Denver) Why: Chihei Katakeyama is an ambient/experimental electronic/drone artist from Tokyo, Japan whose work has found a home on Kranky but lately largely out of his own White Paddy Mountain imprint which showcases other artists that operate in similar realms of composition and sound design. Carl Ritger has been producing prepared environmental sound experiences under his own name and as Radere and a fixture of Denver’s ambient music scene for more than a decade. Wind Tide is presumably the musique concrète/ambient artist from Littlefield, Texas whose use of field recordings and processed noise captures the essence of the background sounds of civilization that often go ignored unless brought explicitly to your attention though not often as creatively as Wind Tide has done in an extensive Bandcamp catalog.
Thursday and Friday | 04.07 and 04.08 What: Jawbreaker w/Descendents, Face To Face and Samiam When: 6 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Between 1986 and its break-up in 1996, Jawbreaker helped to shape the aesthetics and sound of what became pop punk and emo during that time and going forward. With albums like 1994’s influential 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You from 1995, which the group celebrates with this tour, Jawbreaker brought an existential self-examination to the lyrics and a creativity to the dynamics and textures of its songs that transcended the genres it helped to define. The trio has been back together since 2017 with a documentary about the band Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker releasing that same year. Listening back to its old albums the fingerprints of that music is clearly evident on a large swath of punk-oriented music of the past 25 years. Also on this bill are pioneering pop punk band The Descendents whose own anthemic songs likely proved an inspiration for Jawbreaker and both Face to Face and Samiam also sharing the stage this night.
Saturday | 04.09 What:Sarah Shook & The Disarmers w/Lillian When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sarah Shook could have had a perfectly fine and successful career sticking to the modern country sound of their excellent first two records Sidelong and Years. Shook’s expressive vocals and finely crafted songs have always been informed by a thoughtful sensitivity with some grit underlying the delivery. The new album, 2022’s Nightroamer, produced by Dwight Yoakam collaborator Peter Anderson, has touches of effects on Shook’s voice which might strike some longtime fans as odd but overall those sonic details and a more expansive quality to the sound in general on the album feels like it opened up the singer’s songwriting a bit and lends it a quality that sounds more full and the musical equivalent of a color photo versus a black and white. Both have their appeal but more hues in emotion are emphasized. Lillian is a Denver-based singer-songwriter whose luminous songs in an Americana vein are difficult to pigeonhole. Her new album Chasing Shadows will be released at a show at The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club on April 21.
Saturday | 04.09 What:Abandons, Brother Saturn, Equine and Denizens of the Deep When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Brother Saturn will celebrate the release of his latest album Dreams of Sand at this show. As per usual, ethereal soundscapes that are both subtle and transporting and fans of the Hearts of Space program will find a lot to like with his material in general. Abandons is a heavier post-rock band. Denizens of the Deep also produces ambient/noise/modern classical music in a variety of modes but the latest album End Times is a good deal of distorted synth drone over mournful, melancholic compositions and moody piano. Equine is avant-garde prog informed by modal jazz and cosmic mathematics.
Saturday | 04.09 What:Fern Roberts, Vampire Squids From Hell and Mossgatherers When: 8-11 p.m. Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: Fern Roberts is a band that isn’t easy to classify and its latest album I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow occupies a musical space between late 80s Talk Talk, Animal Collective and Beach Fossils. Vampire Squids From Hell are an instrumental, psychedelic surf rock band.
Sunday | 04.10 What:Ministry w/Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity When: 6 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: For this tour Ministry is mainly tapping into its songs from Psalm 69 and earlier and even playing”Supernaut” which leader Al Jourgensen covered for an EP by his side project 1000 Homo DJs. So maybe some other early material is in store for the rest of the tour as well. Corrosion of Conformity wasn’t explicitly a crossover band but one whose hardcore bridged the worlds of punk and thrash almost from the beginning. And of course Melvins are always a reliably entertaining live act that has pushed its own envelope since its early days in the 80s when it inspired a great swath of the grunge scene including guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne teaching Kurt Cobain to play guitar and drummer Dale Crover having been a member of Nirvana for a time in the early days. The trio’s impact on modern rock music is often underrated but indelible. In 2021 Melvins released two albums, Working with God, a record more in line with its always compelling noise rock, and Five Legged Dog, an acoustic album. You never have to worry about a rote Melvins show so get there early and see one of the truly great bands of the last 40 years in a place that sounds as great as Mission Ballroom.
Monday | 04.11 What:Girl Talk w/Hugh Augustine When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Gregg Gillis as Girl Talk took the mashup to new levels in the 2000s as a DJ who, inspired by 90s IDM, alternative artists and noise, created surprisingly unique blends of sounds, rhythms and musical concepts. In 2022 Girl Talk released a collaborative album with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. And Smoke DZA called Full Court Press in which Gillis was able to use his production expertise to weave together the contributions of three hip-hop artists not short on personality and idiosyncratic styles. The album represents Gillis’ first full record since 2010’s All Day but also one of the higher points of an already interesting and genre bending career.
Tuesday | 04.12 What: Bootblacks w/Plague Garden and DJ Kilgore When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Bootblacks started in New York City in 2010 around the early stage of the current wave of darkwave and post-punk. Its intricate rhythms and brooding atmospherics sync well with what feels like a visceral intensity, especially live, that brings an urgency and forcefulness to the music that is missing from the music of some later bands tapping into similar sources of inspiration. Bootblacks didn’t get to tour on its 2020 album Thin Skies for reasons with which we’re all too entirely familiar so this tour will find the band able to give the material its proper presentation. Fans of Chameleons will appreciate Bootblacks dusky take on dreamlike, observational nightlife anthems. Plague Garden is a similarly-minded post-punk band from Denver with roots in punk and EBM.
Tuesday | 04.12 What:Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Mercury Rev When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev started around the same time around the beginning of the 90s on opposite sides of the country. But both incorporated elements of folk, psychedelic rock and experimental soundscaping into their respective mix of sounds. BJM became an influential band in the American and international underground with a fiercely DIY spirit that went from making records to touring and promoting its music. Singer Anton Newcombe’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics and ever evolving songwriting injected the expansive and imaginative spirit of late 60s psychedelic rock and art rock into a the zeitgeist of the often anemic late-90s post-alternative rock musical landscape and culture with ample personality and unpredictable live shows, some going sideways, mostly striking a chord with disaffected creative people wherever the band toured. Since that time Newcombe has tried his hand at a variety of musical styles while maintaining a subversive and forward thinking creative vision channeled into prolific output. In late spring we can expect to see the release of the new BJM record Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and its the result of Newcombe’s active experiments in composition and production over the past few years in his Berlin studio. Of course live the group is reliably vital. Mercury Rev from upstate New York was started by former Flaming Lips guitarist Jonathan Donohue and with longtime guitarist Grasshopper, Mercury Rev too has been on a creative arc that has taken them to fascinating places from early, warped psychedelia and space rock to the deeply affecting dream pop of breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs (1998) and explorations of personal mythology and the ways our inner lives manifest in how we make sense of the world on every album since. Live, Mercury Rev is transcendent, inspirational and just the thing you need to fill up after a long time being hollowed out by the less fun aspects of life.
Tuesday | 04.12 What:Bill Frisell Trio When: 6 p.m. Where: MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater Why: Bill Frisell is one of the great living jazz guitarists. From Baltimore, Frisell spent many of his formative years in Denver and Colorado as a graduate of East High School. Going to Berklee took him back to the east coast and he was a studio musician for the prestigious jazz label ECM and when he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey he became a fixture in the NYC jazz scene where he came to collaborate with multiple luminaries of the era including John Zorn, going on to become a member of Naked City, the wildly experimental jazz band. By the late 80s Frisell had relocated to Seattle and continued his already noteworthy solo career but also continuing to collaborate with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and on film and television scores. Frisell maintains his connections to the Denver avant-garde and occasionally plays locally including this rare chance to see his trio at the MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater.
Friday | 04.15 What:The Velveteers w/Dry Ice and Rose Variety When: 7 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: The Velveteers released its most recent album Nightmare Daydream in 2021 and demonstrated a great leap forward in terms of songwriting for anyone that hadn’t been keeping up with the band in its live performances. Produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, Nightmare Daydream is a blues rock record informed by imaginative songwriting with lyrics that reveal an astute assessment of relationships, the social scene around the world of music and the nuances of human psychology but channeled into bombastic songs that in the live setting have proven to be forceful and captivating. Anyone that saw the Gothic Theatre album release show got to witness a band in full command of its powers with a fiery performance that felt like you were getting to see a famous rock band on the verge of reaching a far wider audience. With upcoming dates with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet it’s likely the trio’s star will be rising so catch The Velveteers for a hometown show at The Fox Theatre before it breaks through to a mainstream audience.
Friday | 04.15 What:Mogwai w/Nina Nastasia When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Scottish post-rock band Mogwai has consistently delivered cinematic guitar music across the breadth of its career going back nearly three decades. But even at that its 2021 album As the Love Continues comes as a bit of a surprise as it includes even more evocative vocals in no way buried in the mix as well as those more processed and a finely nuanced soundscaping with electronic elements and rock instrumentation working in perfect sync to at times remind one of a Wendy Carlos composition (i.e. “Fuck Off Money”). There are no mediocre Mogwai albums but it is one that goes to wider vistas musical vistas than to which the band has traveled in some time.
Saturday | 04.16 What:Actors w/Scifidelic, Weathered Statues and DJ Sin When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Canadian post-punk band Actors have been crafting New Wave-inflected darkwave for around a decade now and its 2021 album Acts of Worship sounds like a dance club soundtrack from a forgotten, 1980’s transcendental science fiction movie. Like maybe if the club Tech Noir from The Terminator got its own movie after being re-opened in 2020. The album’s echoing guitar riffs, melodically brooding vocals, hazy synth lines accented with crystalline tones are reminiscent of early 80s Human League had the league fully incorporated guitars and taken some inspiration from Fad Gadget. And the warping, upbeat, melancholic melodies of songs like “Killing Time (Is Over)” is thoroughly captivating with its unconventional dynamics like something you’d hear on an early Brian Eno “solo” album.
Saturday | 04.16 What: Calm./Time w/Wilt to Live and Lucy Freedom at Mutiny Information Café 8 p.m. When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Calm./Time is one of the great hip-hop projects of Denver music with sharp, political lyrics infused with an incisive and playful sense of humor. With some of the most creative beats steeped in not only classic alternative hip-hop but experimental music and art pop, Calm. (comprised of rapper Time and producer Awareness) always seems to make high concept social commentary accessible and engaging.
Saturday | 04.16 What: Pile (Rick Maguire solo) When: 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: From the Facebook event page because I can’t do better: “While the band is known for its dynamic and bombastic live performances, Maguire recontextualizes the material by performing on his own, something he has continued to do throughout the project’s history. 2021 saw documentation of this aspect of Pile in Songs Known Together, Alone, a solo re-imagining of 15 songs across Pile’s catalog.”
Sunday | 04.17 What:Snail Mail w/Joy Again When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Lindsey Jordan seems to have packed more than a lifetime of heartbreak and pain into her 2021 Snail Mail album Valentine. The title track alone so vividly captures what it feels like to be in the worst throes of a bad breakup and is kind of an inverted Valentine expressing feelings of love and affection that have no direction because of the split and how that can churn inside you leaving you in agonized confusion. Which is a tricky feeling to get across. “Ben Franklin” is apparently about Jordan’s time in a rehab facility, a place for which there all sorts of reasons to end up in for a time, and in the music video for the song she moves about with an energetic playfulness the way many people do with words and actions until they’re ready to have the breakthroughs that are necessary to move on. But the whole record is a brilliantly poetic pop exploration of the various phases of being in some of life’s lowest places set to lush arrangements and inventive guitar compositions that are reminiscent of the more interesting late 90s emo bands that blurred genre lines like Rainer Maria and Milemarker except that Jordan’s sounds reflect the gentleness better suited to expressing wounded feelings and lingering hurt. And yet there is a sense that these songs helped Jordan to crawl through the most vivid memories of their inspirations.
Sunday | 04.17 What:Radolescents w/The Haji, Noogy and Egoista– canceled When: 7 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Radolescents is Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer of the Adolescents along with original Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew’s son Frank Agnew Jr on vocals, Dan O’Donovan on guitar and Dan Colburn on bass performing the Adolescents’ 1981 self-titled record aka The Blue Album in its entirety. Rikk Agnew has been responsible for some of the most inventive and memorable guitar tones out of punk rock including his performance on the 1982 deathrock classic Only Theatre of Pain while a member of Christian Death. Live performance video out there for this lineup has been pretty solid so here’s a chance to see one of the most iconic bands out of punk of the last 40+ years.
Sunday | 04.17 What: mssv aka Main Steam Stop Valve (Mike Bagg, Stephen Hodges and Mike Watt) When: 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: mssv has quite a pedigree including obvious master bass player Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame but also Stephen Hodges who played drums on Tom Waits records like Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. He also played on various soundtracks including those for Until the end of the World and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. No big deal. But with Mike Bagg whose own performance resume is respective for his work with distinguished jazz artists and avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline. Together they make what might be described as a mutant type of free jazz and surf rock.
Monday | 04.18 What: Sleep w/Superwolves (Matthew Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy) When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The right people are going to appreciate this strange folk and blues band Superwolves comprised of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Chavez guitarist/singer Matthew Sweeney opening for psychedelic sludgerocks’s heaviest of the heavy, Sleep. Some people are going to be so put off and angry that will be amusing on its own. Too bad for those people though because two great bands on one bill with this stylistic swing should happen more often. Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) has influenced a generation of musician though his various bands over the years and his solo records as well for inventive and intricate guitar work and heartfelt, tender, poetic and witty lyrics and Sleep has perhaps more than any other single band outside of Black Sabbath spawned the doom metal genre as we know it but few have equaled their sonic grandeur and imaginative songwriting.
Monday and Tuesday | 04.18 and 04.19 What:The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo Cozmo — Rescheduled, date TBD When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo made a name for himself as the frontman for Laguardia in the the first half of the 2000s and then for a decade as the lead singer for Eastern Conference Champions. But since 2015 he has been recording and performing under the Mondo Cozmo moniker and crafting heartfelt and genre eclectic music. His new album, 2022’s This Is For The Barbarians takes Ostrander deep into his roots in rebellious folk artists like Bob Dylan and his more experimental electronic interests at the same time. The album is like a Radiohead album but more informed by folk and more overtly pop but with the appropriately rough around the edges quality to suit the times that surrounded the process of writing the songs with Ostrander commenting on the highs and very low depths of the world in the past half decade and his insight into personal psychology and the American zeitgeist is as cathartic as it is inspirational. And yes, opening for Toxic Airborne Event whose own long career of luminously gritty alternative rock has garnered a bit of a cult following. Its 2020 album Hollywood Park, sharing the title with singer Mikel Jollett’s memoir of the same name from the same year, was unsurprisingly as literarily as musically as poignant album as any in the group’s career to date and certainly seemingly its most personal.
Tuesday | 04.19 What:IDLES w/Automatic When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: IDLES first came to the attention of a wider international audience with the 2017 release of its debut full length album Brutalism. Its exhilaratingly spirited live shows and the poetic intensity and social consciousness and deep self-examination reflected in the lyrics had an immediately appeal that seemed another high point in the then relatively recent resurgence of punk and post-punk that made that style of music seem relevant and exciting again. The 2018 second album Joy As An Act of Resistance in title alone sounded like a call to action for putting energy and will into the world around you that engages people in a positive and compassionate yet passionate manner. Since then 2020’s Ultra Mono took some knocks by various critics as a creative plateau if not a dip in the exciting potential of the band’s previous work but Crawler (2021) proved IDLES is not out of ideas and certainly not out of the incredible energy that is clearly behind its live performances. When IDLES performed at Larimer Lounge 2018 it was unlike most club shows of late with lead singer Joe Talbot ranging far into the crowd to break down the performer and audience barrier the way the songs often do, like they’re speaking directly from your life. Opener Automatic is a trio from Los Angeles whose own flavor of rhythm-and-synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of early OMD. Its forthcoming and second album Excess releases on June 24, 2022 with retrofuturist music videos that compliment its aesthetic so well. In commenting on the song “New Beginning” the band references the Swedish science fiction film Aniara which is one of the better neo-dystopian films of recent years.
Tuesday | 04.19 What:Soft Kill w/Alien Boy, Topographies, Candy Apple and Destiny Bond When: 7:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Soft Kill was one of the earliest of the current wave of darkwave/post-punk bands with a decent string of releases with its 2020 album Dead Kids R.I.P. City being its finest and a poignant commentary on the confluence of the growth of Portland, Oregon both organically and through the poisonously mutant manner that the tech industry and other moneyed interests have initiated globally and the ways in which underground music scenes and cultures have been all but washed out of larger and perceivedly hip cities. The music was a little predictable in that obviously influenced by The Cure and The Chameleons way early on but that latest record has some more inventive songwriting and what comes across as a sincere and tender, melancholic observational lament on people lost and a way of life for creative people and others involved in vital subcultures essentially made a thing of the past or at least a shadow of its former self. Alien Boy is also from Portland and its own melancholic blend of punk, emo and atmospheric guitar rock is imbued with its own melancholic spirit inspired by the struggle with the usual everyday stuff that can be a drag if you’re at all sensitive and thoughtful but also with a culture that in too many quarters is hostile to the very existence of certain sectors of society. Candy Apple from Denver perfectly combines spirited hardcore and Hüsker Dü and The Jesus And Mary Chain-esque noise rock. Destiny Bond also from Denver comes from a similar realm of music but one closer to emo but more aggressive in its expression of vulnerability.
Tuesday | 04.19 What:10 Years w/Black Map and VRSTY Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Black Map is a post-hardcore band from San Francisco comprised of members of Far, Dredg and Trophy Fire. Though supporting alternative metal band 10 Years on this tour its 2022 album Melodoria is the kind of melodic heavy music that bends toward emo and definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of Circa Survive as its not on the screamo or pop punk end of post-hardcore.
Tuesday | 04.19 What:Jon Spencer & The HITmakers w/Quasi When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Jon Spencer has been giving us gloriously demented and exciting psychedelic blues and garage rock since at least his time in Pussy Galore. But with his new band he collides together all of the stuff you might expect with industrial music production and willingness to introduce non-musical sounds and concepts into the mix. The group’s new album Spencer Gets It Lit is like a retrofuturist science fiction movie as imagined through the lens of an unlikely Suicide and the Cramps team-up and then turned into wonderfully strange and sometimes unsettling songs, which has been Spencer’s modus operandi through various projects for decades. Anything to weird out the squares and honestly the world has been in desperate need for such creative gestures in increasing amounts over the last several years. On the record you can hear the synth and vocal stylings of Sam Coomes of opening band Quasi which is no experimental rock slouch project either with drummer Janet Weiss who in rock and roll right now has to be considered one of the top tier talents. Most people probably know her from her long stint in Sleater-Kinney but anyone lucky enough to have seen her with Quasi or Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks has seen a different facet of her considerable talent.
Wednesday | 04.20 What: Blushing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting When: 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: This is pretty much the shoegaze or shoegaze adjacent show of the year with Blushing touring in support of its new album Possessions. Its hazy and urgent melodies are enveloping and hypnotic. Letting Up Despite Great Faults also based in Austin weaves in a bit more twee pop stylings into its gorgeous soundscapes. Its own new album, IV, is back to back entrancing material about the more subtle sides of life and daily struggles and in “She Spins” one of the great melodic guitar progressions of the past two decades. Old Soul Dies Young from Denver mixes expansive guitar atmospheres with an almost black metal grit and lo-fi aesthetic seemingly inspired in part by anime and manga, or so its releases on the group’s Bandcamp suggests. Moodlighting like Letting Up Despite Great Faults puts the pop songcraft at the center of its own amalgam of indiepop and dream pop.
Wednesday | 04.20 What:Parquet Courts w/Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: If you were to name the top ten post-punk bands now that are pushing that form of music forward with creativity and ambitious songwriting while putting out some of the most sharp critiques of modern politics and society, Parquet Courts would be near the top of that list. Its 2021 album Sympathy For Life has an almost mystical album art design and its songs combine the use of mythical storytelling with stories of the folly of human civilization, especially late stage capitalism, and our often flawed ways of coping in the face of a deeply uncertain future.
Friday | 04.22 What: Waxahatchee w/Madi Diaz When: 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Katie Crutchfield has been releasing deeply personal and insightful folk pop albums as Waxahatchee since her 2012 solo debut album American Weekend. Crutchfield’s gift for articulating existential uncertainty, personal devastation and yearning has imbued her recorded output with a underlying but always present spirit of compassion for self and others. Her 2021 album Saint Cloud expands her sound palette further with synths and programming serving as a backdrop, a context for songs that speak directly to a world of accelerating sources of anxiety and by grounding her songs in directly relatable experiences rather than contemplative theoreticals. The songs come off like a great country record informed by imaginative songwriting that pairs grit with poetic observations as ingredients in keeping present when so many things drive us to dissociate.
Friday | 04.22 What:Emerald Siam, Weathered Statues and We Are Not a Glum Lot Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: Emerald Siam has long been fusing a dark and melancholic sound with a brightness of spirit that rises through the psychological murk that can bog everyone down so easily these days. Its membership includes former members of bands like Twice Wilted, Tarmints, The Bedsit Infamy and Wild Call and its alchemical use of rhythm tied to dynamic rhythms plus frontman Kurt Ottaway’s passionate vocals is hard to beat. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound is rooted in the classics of that subgenre but there is something so upbeat and spirited about its sound and performance that associating the music with something gloomy seems inaccurate as its moody atmospherics have an expansive energy. We Are Not A Glum Lot all but suggests it’s going to be a an emo band of some kind and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark as its intricate guitar melodies and wiry rhythms have a leg in 2000s emo but also one in shoegaze and gritty post-punk. Think something like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with Jawbox and you have some idea of what you’re in for.
Saturday | 04.23 What:Ho99o9 w/N8NOFACE When: 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Ho99o9 from Newark, NJ have somehow managed to completely fold together industrial music, hip-hop, hyperpop, hardcore and noise for one of the most immediately riveting sounds around. The live show is as visceral and as confrontational as you might imagine but also brimming with a sense of joy at shattering the conventions of established genre music-making.
Saturday and Sunday | 04.23 and 04.24 What: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs w/Sammy Brue When: 7 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre and Bluebird Theater Why: Mike Campbell is indeed the influential guitarist who was once a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a co-writer of many of the band’s hit songs across decades. This is his new band and they’re touring small venues in support of the band’s lively new album External Combustion. So go expecting an arena rock level show at these small theaters. Less polished than the Heartbreakers, this project from Campbell showcases the musician consistently cutting loose a little more than he has in his long and storied career.
Sunday and Monday | 04.24 and 04.25 What: PUP w/Sheer Mag, Pink Shift When: 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Where:Ogden Theatre and Boulder Theater Why: PUP is one great bands to have emerged out of the 2010s as purveyors of the kind of heartfelt pop punk that seemed to revitalize that style of music and bring to it a healthy sense of self-deprecation and introspection expressed in spirited, anthemic songs that feel less like refurbished angst and more like catharsis in camaraderie. Its new album The Unraveling of PUPTheBand has more than its fair share of tasty hooks but also of lyrics that vividly capture the frustrations of the average person trying to navigate the vicissitudes of life in the modern world seemingly on the brink of some kind of disaster. Sheer Mag is the punk band that sounds like it grew up listening to a ton of AC/DC and Slade but ended up discovering working class punk and decided not to see why those sounds and ideas should be separate. Its 2019 album A Distant Call has the visual aesthetics of a Judas Priest record but lyrics that were a sharp critique of plain old American greed and political corruption and the immediate and deleterious impacts on every aspect of life.
Monday | 04.25 What:The Flaming Lips w/Particle Kid When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: The Flaming Lips will forever be to some people the scrappy weirdo band from Oklahoma that made strange, psychedelic music with vivid lyrics about life’s challenging and colorful moments before and after a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s before circumstances within the band and a crisis of creativity sent the group back to the drawing boards. After the parking lot experiments in performance, the perhaps ill-considered yet brilliant Zaireeka released on four CDs meant to be played simultaneously for the full effect of the music and then deep diving into alternative methods of recording with its creative high point then thus far with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. In the 2000s the band’s star ascended further than most people might have expected with its various stylistic experiments and becoming the kind of band that seemed to be playing every festival and embraced by fans of unusual rock music and jam band types. And then the Lips would put out some of its most daring and deeply introspective and insightful albums like 2013’s The Terror and American Head from 2020. If history seems correct for the Lips, this would be a tour to see. Opening the show is Particle Kid and his eclectic, countrified, psychedelic new record TIME CAPSULE includes collaborations with J Mascis and Willie Nelson. Which sounds like it could be a trainwreck but instead it’s an unusually touching set of contemplative, observational songs on American culture and our trying to make sense of it all. It is somehow both nostalgic and imbued with a paradoxically chill immediacy.
Monday | 04.25 What:Yumi Zouma w/Mini Trees When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Yumi Zouma from Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand have spent the last eight years or so crafting tender dream pop imbued with a buoyant energy tempered by hazy, introspective tones. It’s 2022 album Present Tense explores the nuances of love and romance in the current period with a poetic sensibility and music that flows with a smoothly cinematic quality lending each song feel like a short film with all the drama of the story coming together poignantly in under four minutes. Jazz-like structures and strings throughout the album renders it like a new take on chamber pop without any of the pretentiousness.
Monday | 04.25 What:Deftones w/Gojira and VOWWS When: 6 p.m. Where: Ball Arena Why: Deftones are arguably the most influential of the newer style of metal band that came to prominence in the 1990s. The ability of the band to not just tap into a hybrid metal aesthetic but to weave in an always interesting and evolving atmospheric element that has been a part of its songwriting since early on. 2000’s White Pony was like a dream pop album written with the sound palette of a brooding metal group in search of a sound that better expressed the breadth and depth of emotions of its content with the tonal nuance to hit the ears with something more creative and interesting than the usual bludgeoning edginess of much of 90s metal. The combination gave the anger and pain in the album a raw accessibility than it might have had otherwise. The group’s 2020 album Ohms pushed the songwriting further into a more soundscape-y mode that had more in common with the likes of Failure and at times Swervedriver than metal. But that record came out in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic and of course the veteran band didn’t have a way to tour in support of what might be its finest set of songs until this run of shows with support from French death metal band Gojira and prominent darkwave duo VOWWS.
Tuesday | 04.26 What: Deserta w/Little Trips and Mon Cher When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Deserta is a Los Angeles-based shoegaze band whose songs sound like a more benevolent side of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The project’s new album Every Moment, Everything You Need has whispery vocals that fit right in with the languid builds and grainy melodies and insular mood. Its previous album 2020’s Black Aura My Sun was reminiscent of a more summery Slowdive if influenced by bedroom pop and the new record like a modern take on 80s New Wave but with sultry guitar atmospherics that trail off into the middle distance. Little Trips is a lo-fi dream pop outfit from Denver with a knack for subtle synth melodies that integrate well with chill beats and Mon Cher, also from the Mile High City, is a synth and piano-driven dream pop trio whose melancholic spaciousness is refreshingly not in some trendy mold of that style of music broadly speaking.
Tuesday | 04.26 What:Bloody Knives w/Twin Image and Juliet Mission When: 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Austin’s Bloody Knives sound like what might be called an industrial shoegaze band with fairly strong electronic and electric musical components in its sound and seeming inspiration from 90s experimental electronic pop. Twin Image is the latest project from former Fell frontman and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Wambeke and this time it’s more like a shoegaze/slowcore hybrid which is roughly the lane in which Fell existed but Twin Image is even more introspective and somehow more brash. Juliet Mission includes former members of alternative rock/shoegaze band Sympathy F and this long-running project truly captures and expresses the dark, moody vibe of Denver from back when downtown at night was both a perilous and magical place, evoking the specific melancholic flavor that is one of the hallmarks of the city no matter how much shine Nü Denver projects try to gloss over the top.
Wednesday | 04.27 What:Knocked Loose w/Movements, Kublai Khan and Koyo When: 6 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: While metalcore battered itself into self-parody as a movement sometime in the 2000s its leading lights and adjacent artists of note like Poison the Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and others have endured as an influence on hardcore and heavy music for their ability to express a furious kind of outrage through cathartic live performances and having a more imaginative take on that hybrid musical style that can seem monolithic. Since the 2010s metalcore has experienced a kind of renaissance with Knocked Loose from Oldham County, Kentucky being one of the most prominent bands out of that new wave. In 2021 Knocked Loose released its latest EP A Tear In The Fabric of Life with an full animation of the EP by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Jonsson from a story by Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris. This time out the band seems to be drawing out its grindcore influence a bit while expanding its dynamic range.
Thursday | 04.28 What:MONO w/Bing & Ruth When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Japanese post-rock band MONO has been quite prolific in its 23 years of existence releasing creatively ambitious, mostly instrumental rock albums that speak more eloquently to emotions and ideas in a nuanced and eloquent way than many standard issue rock bands that spell out what they have to say more explicitly. This has mean the group’s music takes on rendering its meaning beyond specific cultural context. The music is rock but also extends to a modern version of classical music with elegant structure and formal composition tempered by an organic spontaneity. Live this quality translates perhaps most directly.
Thursday | 04.28 What:Vahco Before Horses, Polly Urethane, Pearls and Perils, Blank Human, Esu the Illest, Space Pirate, Morpgorp and Joohs Uhp When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Vahco Before Horses is moving to the Netherlands soon and this is going to be his last show as a resident of Denver. The producer/singer/musician has run a local record label called Glasss and now Glass Melts which focused on more experimental music in the local underground and beyond. Vahco spent some time on both coasts in the music industry at various levels and brought some of that sensibility to his work in music in Denver. His own music is a surprisingly soulful form of electronic pop music with powerful vocals and vivid emotional portraits of life. Also on this bill is experimental downtempo artist Pearls and Perils, the weirdo techno of Blank Human, avant-garde mashup hip-hop hooligans Joohs Uhp, transcendent industrial pop soundscaper Polly Urethane, forward thinking rapper-producer Esu the Illest and others. Though kind of a farewell show to Vahco it’s also a fairly solid showcase of one important branch of left field underground music from the Mile High City.
Friday | 04.29 What:VR Sex w/Lunacy When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: VR Sex is the more punk alias of Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty fame. This project is more gritty in tone, noisier and more brash. Adopting the performance moniker of Noel Skum (an irreverent anagram of Elon Musk which is pretty on point), Clinco’s songwriting for VR Sex is ordered around clashing dynamics that sound like the kinds of songs a futuristic biker gang might listen to when getting up to some crimes aimed at yet another attempt at authoritarian control of all things in an asymmetrical warfare approach to taking down the man. The new record Rough Dimension with its cover clearly a nod to The Blair Witch Project all too poignantly encapsulates in sound the static, urgency and chaos that we face every day but blasting it apart with buzz saw riffs and attitude. Lunacy from Pennsylvania recently released Echo In The Memory is a bracing, ghostly industrial post-punk record that sounds like life after humans per the History Channel series but for real—gorgeously stark soundscapes with firm rhythm lines and washes of ethereally caustic atmospheres.
Friday | 04.29 What: Big Thief w/Kara-Lis Coverdale When: 8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Big Thief became so popular so quickly you might be excused for dismissing it out of hand as a buzz band of the moment. But its particular brand of indie folk rock strikes deep chords, comes off as deeply honest and personal and its use of space expertly rendered so that it feels like Adrianne Lenker is singing directly to you about your own life. Its 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You seems so developed and practiced yet also unvarnished and vulnerable. If there is a popular style of indie folk that has been plaguing playlists and the airwaves and watering down the impact of the music, Big Thief here is the opposite of that by embracing what might be considered flaws as simply an essential aspect of our analog humanity and the way we live and exist in a world where not everything is streamlined for easy consumption and the band takes many sonic chances on the record that many artists on a similar level of popularity would not and that makes what Big Thief is doing now seem incredibly refreshing.
Saturday | 04.30 What:Tempers w/Lesser Care, Julian St. Nightmare and Kill You Club DJs When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Tempers from NYC has been developing its dusky darkwave synth pop for the last several years with albums that seem to draw on a hazy 80s post-punk aesthetic for inspiration but also rooted in modern techno. Its 2022 album New Meaning is arguably its most coherent effort yet with songs about coming to terms with living in a time of great uncertainty and needing to create meaning where it might be eroding in meaningful ways in various areas of life and in the world around you. The cover image of the staircase to nowhere that is a part of contemporary creepy pasta culture as manifested so powerfully in Butcher’s Block, the third season of prematurely canceled horror anthology series Channel Zero. As a symbol for the album it works too as an enigmatic image that requires us to imagine where we might make the staircase take us and the peril of not building something beyond the great unknown that seems to be paralyzing the psyches of so many and otherwise sowing insecurity and desperation in a social environment that wasn’t already short on such things.
Saturday | 04.30 What:LEAF w/Negativland and SUE-C When: 7 p.m. Where: The Arts Hub Why: Lafayette Electronic Arts Festvial returns with a set from legendary performance art/avant-garde electronic/sound collage project Negativland and live cinema artist SUE-C collaborating on a performance that comments on the dystopian tech environment that is plaguing so much of life in the 21st century thus far.
Thursday | 12.03 What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie When: 10 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.
Friday | 12.03 What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer When: 7/8 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.
Saturday | 12.04 What:…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.
Monday | 12.06 What:She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.
Tuesday | 12.07 What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod When: 6/7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.
Tuesday | 12.07 What:Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.
Thursday | 12.09 What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.
Friday | 12.10 What:N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.
Friday | 12.10 What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.
Saturday | 12.11 What:Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil When: 9:30/10 p.m. Where: HQ Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.
Friday | 12.17 What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.
Friday | 12.17 What:Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys When: 8/9 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.
Monday | December 20 What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.
Thursday | 12.23 What:Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.
Friday | 12.31 What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire When: 7/8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.