What:Portrayal of Guilt w/Street Sects, EUTH and Cau5er When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Portrayal of Guilt is a post-hardcore band from Austin that weaves together elements of grindcore and noise soundscaping to create an angular kind of screamo bristling with menace. Its rhythms are more widely dynamic than one might expect from the mix of sounds and influences with chords allowed to hang to establish a mood that crawls to catharsis. Street Sects, also from Austin, is an industrial noise outfit whose confrontational performances may feel hidden in the banks of fog in its performance zone but the band manages to turn that haze into a realm where the tension it builds to unpredictable moments of eruption. Cau5er is a Denver project that comes partly out of hardcore but is firmly in the worlds of noise and power electronics with an impassioned delivery that belies notions of noise artists all being knob twiddlers. Schedule for the evening below provided as this show is being conducted in cooperation with the show at Mutiny across the street from the Hi-Dive.
Street Sects 10pm
Portrayal of Guilt 11pm
What:Red Death (DC), Enforced (RVA), Chair of Torture and Wide Man When: Thursday, 1.23, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Washington DC’s Red Death is a modern crossover band whose synthesis of thrash and hardcore is reminiscent of a more aggro version of what Megadeth was doing earlier in its career. If that sounds appealing, Enforced from Richmond, Virginia and Chair of Torture from Denver are mining similar territory with the latter with more than a leg in grindcore. See schedule for the evening below as it is being done in conjunction with the show mentioned above at the Hi-Dive.
7:30-7:50 Chair of Torture
8:05-8:25 Wide Man
8:40-9:10 Red Death
What:Use the Sun (Reunion), Old Sport and American Grandma When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Denver’s Use the Sun is reuniting for one night to bring forth its joyous mixture of melodic punk and surf rock. Also included is a lately relatively rare show from Old Sport who have been part of that resurgence of bands that were influenced by the better, mathier end of emo and post-hardcore. American Grandma is a slowcore band whose elegant and introspective guitar compositions blur the line between folk, ambient and dream pop.
What:Neil Haverstick When: Saturday, 1.25, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Why: Neil Haverstick is Denver’s biggest proponent of microtonal guitar so much so that he wrote a book about it. His songs, though, come from an emotional place and his roots in blues and folk inform even though his style brings in a great deal of avant-garde thinking into the mix and makes it accessible.
What:Shibui Denver #9: The Vanilla Milkshakes, Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers When: Sunday, 1.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Cafe Why: This latest edition of Shibui Denver will feature outsider pop punk band The Vanilla Milkshakes, the earnest, existential, angular indie rock of Lazarus Horse and Pythian Whispers’ psychedelic ambient soundscapes with visuals by Mark Mosher, electro-ambient artist and founder of Rocky Mountain Synth Meetup.
Tuesday | January 28
What:GosT w/Church Fire and Elay Arson When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: GosT blurs the line between metal and synthwave and definitely for fans of Perturbator. Church Fire blurs that line a little too but more in the tribal, pagan vein without hitting you over the head with the aesthetic and its industrial/dance pop hybrid is one of the most compelling things going on in Denver or anywhere.
What:Poppy w/VOWWS When: Tuesday, 1.28, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Poppy’s genre-mashup is not for everyone. But the theatrical presentation of her mix and remix of extreme metal, kawaii pop and surreal psychedelic pop turns on a dime like something John Zorn might have thought of had Naked City come up in the 90s and 2000s and not in the realm of avant-garde jazz and grindcore. Currently touring in support of her new album I Disagree. VOWWS has managed to shed a lot of the previous associations in the last year with retro rockist tendencies. Its sound is more like a hard edged darkwave to post-punk what a band like True Widow is to metal and shoegaze.
What:Sheer Mag w/Tweens and The Born Readies When: Thursday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Sheer Mag sounds like a band that grew up listening mostly to Thin Lizzy, 70s power pop and AC/DC but invented punk rock without ever having heard it. It’s new record A Distant Call finds the band having refined some of its raw power without blunting it.
Friday | September 13
What:Soulless Maneater, Sweetness Itself, Sad Bug When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Sad Bug is sort of a neo-emo pop punk band. Sweetness Itself might come off as a bit of a fuzzy psychedelic band but sometimes Cyrena Rosati’s guitar work verves into bendy waves akin to something you might hear from My Bloody Valentine via No Joy. Which is to say gloriously loud and noisy but also tied to tight songwriting and accessible hooks. Soulless Maneater is what happens when you give doom metal more of an abrasive edge and more pointed and political lyrics aimed at where a critical eye belongs.
What:Summer Cannibals w/Mr. Atomic and Knuckle Pups When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Summer Cannibals have for the past seven years charted a path out of the neo-garage rock that dominated American underground rock for several years. Its own songwriting more fluid and dynamic than just the adolescent release and raw, youthful enthusiasm that was both what was exciting but ultimately limiting and tiresome about the new garage bands. Summer Cannibals didn’t just have a healthy sense of humor but the band also seemed to take seriously its songcraft but without overthinking it. Its new album, 2019’s Can’t Tell Me No is Summer Cannibals in high form with its contrast of melodic vocals, grit, attitude and confessional lyrics.
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Friday, 09.13, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: It shouldn’t work and maybe for some it doesn’t, but Brooklyn’s Dub Trio took inspiration from King Tubby and applied the principles of dub to heavier music in terms of shaping sound, production and signal processing. Surface level, the group comes across like an arty doom band and it has served as part of the backing band for Mike Patton on the 2006 Peeping Tom tour and on its new album The Shape of Jazz to Come, it worked with Buzz Osborne of Melvins fame. But the bass is sculpted in a way to sync up with the sampled and manipulated sounds fed back into the mix for a disorienting yet hypnotic effect. Sure, opening for a pretty famous nü metal band but worth going to see for their set alone.
Saturday | September 14
What:Dub Trio w/Incubus When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: For Dub Trio see above on 9.14.
What:Test Dept w/Acidbat, eHpH and DJ Dave Vendetta When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m. Where: Antero Hall (formerly Eck’s Saloon) Why: Test Dept is indeed the legendary early industrial band from London touring through Denver before it performs at the Cold Waves festival in Chicago. Percussion heavy, full, mind-altering assault to the senses in the vein of those early industrial groups of the 80s. Different from but definitely for fans of Einstürzende Neubauten and Crash Worship.
What:Total Trash, Vampire Squids From Hell, Lords of Howling When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: September’s Get Your Ears Swoll will include “doom surf” band Vampire Squids From Hell, avant-folk Lords of Howling and psychedelic indie rock phenoms Total Trash.
What:Strand of Oaks w/Apex Manor When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter has had a prolific career writing delicate and thoughtful, introspective, folk-inflected pop songs. One might call it pastoral but by candlelight. There’s an intimacy to Showalter’s songwriting that sets it apart from some other songwriters exploring similar sonic territory. That and Showalter’s attention to the rhythm side of the music so that all parts compliment each other well. His new album, 2019’s Eraserland, was never supposed to happen until some friends convinced him to get back into the studio to write the record and it’s a particularly touching testament to rediscovering the strength to continue on and do what you love even if it feels to you at the time pointless and hopeless. It’s a personal reinvention with music that feels gently reinvigorating as well.
What:KGNU Quarterly Showcase, Smash it Back Edition: Sputnik Slovenia, Little Fyodor & Babushka and The Hinckleys – DJ Andy Z When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: This edition of the KGNU Quaterly showcase features Jim Yelnick of hardcore band Pitch Invasion playing his solo material and probably treating you to some unusual humor. And of course the great, avant-garde punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka will be putting in a, these days, rare appearance and demonstrate how punk can push the boundaries of the songwriting and subject matter while writing incredibly catchy music. There is no fashion victim type stuff with Fyodor because he already looks like an accountant who burned down his office and started a cable access show about underground culture and the impending collapse of civilization.
What:Of Monsters and Men w/Lower Dens When: Monday, 09.16, 6:30 p.m. Where: The Mission Ballroom Why: Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men are currently touring in support of its 2019 album Fever Dream and will provide the expansive, emotional, melodic songs made for the larger club setting. Opening the show is experimental dream pop band Lower Dens. The group’s earlier albums were in the realm of dub-inflected post-punk but its newer material, particularly on its new record The Competition, combines its lush melodies with an almost disco flavored adult contemporary sound. Like Jana Hunter and company mined 80s pop music and removed the cheese but kept the solid songwriting and production.
What:Roselit Bone, High Plains Honky and Erika Ryann When: Monday, 09.16, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Roselit Bone is like a honky tonk, cow boy high desert Gun Club and visually reminiscent of the same. Intense live performances and riveting storytelling. Its new album Crisis Actor is a storybook of American skullduggery, misdeeds and a celebration of life.
Tuesday | September 17
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: GRLwood from Louisville, Kentucky sound like an emotionally nuanced math-y emo band on its 2018 album Daddy. Though there is a smoldering sensibility to the vocals the band is able to reconcile powerful feelings with actually feeling its hurt and transforming that into a melancholic catharsis that bursts forth in fiery riffs and introspective passages. And it will contrast well with Man Man, the psychedelic art rock band formerly form Philadelphia who made it “indie big” in the 2000s with its ambitious albums and theatrical and bombastic live shows.
What:Hatchie w/Orchin and Slow Caves When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hatchie’s 2019 debut full length Keepsake is the rare dream pop offering of late with a keen ear for the low end to give the music some weightiness and drive. Maybe there’s no surprise there since Harriet Pilbeam has played bass and guitar in her musical career up to now and the songwriting on Keepsake reflects an appreciation for a broad spectrum of how the music can stimulate your emotions. It’s breezy in dynamic and Pilbeam’s vocals warmly melodic but the songs always seem to be reaching forward to draw you in.
What:Torche w/Pinkish Black and Green Druid When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Torche formed in 2004 in Miami and came out of the heavy music underground of the 90s when Steve Brooks and former member Juan Montoya were members of doom/sludge legends Floor. Torche was a different animal and as the band has developed over the years it is difficult to really call it a sludge or doom band, especially with its 2019 album Admission with its sometimes shimmery and gritty melodies, expansive vocal dynamic and sinuous rhythms. The fuzzy drones seem to have more in common with the likes of Swervedriver than what you’re likely to hear on a doom record and yet often enough Torche employs a colossally blunt riff but then sends it spiralling in different trajectories giving the songs a sound like what might happen if a psychedelic metal band left behind its limiting tropes and explored the inherent possibilities of its sound palette.
What:Man Man w/GRLwood When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: See above on 9/17 for Man Man and GRLwood.
Who:Hockey Dad w/Hunny When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.
Who:A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.
Friday | February 8, 2019
Who:Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.
Who:Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.
Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.
Who:Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?
Saturday | February 9, 2019
Who:Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.
Who:An Evening With Nels Cline 4 When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.
Who:Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.
Sunday | February 10, 2019
Who:Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why:Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.
Monday | February 11, 2019
Who:Gang of Four w/Plume Varia When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.
Wednesday | February 13, 2019
Who:SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.
Who:Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.
Who:Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.
Who:High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.
Who:DOA and MDC When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: Streets of London Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.
Who:The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.
Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.
Friday | May 25, 2018
Who:Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.
Who:Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.
Who:How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Where: Emmanuel Gallery Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.
Who:Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.
Who:Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.
Who:La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.
Saturday | May 26, 2018
Who:Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.
Who:102 Wires When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m. Where: Bar Max Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.
Sunday | May 27, 2018
What:A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.
Who:Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.
Who:ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.
Tuesday | May 29, 2018
Who:King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.
Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.
Who:Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.
Wednesday | May 30, 2018
Who:Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.
Who:Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.
Who:Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.
New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.
Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.