Knuckle Pups is a rock band with roots in the DIY and indie underground scene in Denver. Its music has a bit of that solid pop song craft, accessibility and a touch of the experimental infused with punk spirit. Singer and guitarist Oliver Holloway was born in and grew up in Denver and attended Jefferson County Open School as well as coming up in the Universalist Unitarian Church which gave him a foundation in pursuing his creative and intellectual interests in a supportive environment. Out if high school he became involved in the local DIY scene of house shows and spaces like Monkey Mania and Blast-O-Mat. His then band The Fainting Fansies were charged with the kind of amateur exuberance one would hope from a folk-punk band but also strong songwriting. Holloway followed that band with Henry Sugar which had a similar degree of exuberant performance but more informed by emo. Mega Gem came along shortly after that with its blend of punk and orchestral arrangements in a pop format and unlike most musical bands out of Denver at the time and now. Along the way Holloway toured the country and connected with DIY and activist communities broadly including the members of folk punk legends Defiance, Ohio and Ian Vanek of Japanther and Howardian. Hollowway still subscribes to the communitarian spirit of DIY music and culture as a core component of his approach to being in bands. Knuckle Pups is releasing its debut full-length TV Ready which combines the disparate influences of the members of the band with a unified vision of making music that is brimming with emotional authenticity, sensitively observed lyrics and strong vocal harmonies. Its eclectic aesthetic fortifies the effectiveness of the music and reflects the aforementioned punk and DIY ethos by drawing upon the collective strengths of the members of the band and embraces any perceived flaws and rough edges as part a unique creative work.
Listen to our broad ranging interview with Holloway on Bandcamp linked below. Knuckle Pups will perform at Mercury Café in celebration of the release of the album with home made CDs and t-shirts on Friday, July 15, 2022 with Jeff Cormack of South of France and Earth to Luna. To further explore the world of Knuckle Pups music and to find out about shows and to connect with the band follow the group’s LinkTree.
Friday | 07.01 What:Aldous Harding w/H. Hawkline When: 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Ever since the release of her 2014 self-titled debut album Aldous Harding has been crafting some of the most unique songs in the realm of indie folk of the past few decades. With each album Harding offers songs that seem like a blend of the deeply personal, the mythical and the conceptual. Her song titles suggest a surreal aesthetic that lends itself to her imaginative story telling and a willingness to seek beyond tropes and clichés for ways of signing about relationships, identity, aspirations and dreams and commenting on society. 2017’s Party and her subsequent North American tour revealed Harding to be a truly and fascinatingly idiosyncratic artist whose emotionally powerful and riveting performances were reminiscent of Joni Mitchell with a touch of Kate Bush. Her latest album Warm Chris (2022) puts the focus on fusing the jazz elements of her songwriting with the avant-garde pop for a set of songs that sound like lounge music from a parallel universe where creative weirdos are in charge and creativity is more valued than affirming popular trends.
Friday | 07.01 What:Yonbre Netz w/Reverb and The Verse When: 9 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Yonbre Netz is a Boulder-based hip-hop and experimental electronic artist whose varied collaborations can be heard on his Spotify account where his keen ear for colorful, percussive melodies can be heard. But this is also a rare chance to catch Reverb and The Verse who recently put out their tenth and supposed final album BLACKWALL under this project name. Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai have been at it since the late 90s making hip-hop that has always been rich with creative soundscaping and truly clever wordplay informed by incisive commentary on society and the travails of everyday life. Seemingly never content to repeat the same musical ideas album to album the duo’s catalog of material is a great trail of creative evolution and experimentation. BLACKWALL is a little like if Public Enemy collaborated with Nine Inch Nails with the gift for emotionally charged and politically and poetically astute as that comparison might imply. You may not get many chances to catch those guys in action and the Broadway Roxy would be a great room to make that the opportunity to witness one of the finest hip-hop acts Denver has to offer.
Friday | 07.01 What:Vmthanaachth w/Church Fire, Sell Farm, Ray Diess (album release) and Coma Roulette When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Vmthanaachth from Dallas, Texas combines ambient music and industrial with classical avant-garde in a way that fans of Pedestrian Deposit will appreciate. Church Fire has been really upping their game with making irresistible bangers that also dismantle status quo sentiments and ways of being. For those not in the know Church Fire is something like an alchemical mixture of synth pop, industrial dance music, confrontational feminist punk and one of the best bands out of Denver or anywhere of the past decade. Ray Diess is releasing his latest album the hyperpop inflected and rawly honest It’ll Always Ache. It sounds like something that might have come out of Manchester in the late 80s or early 90s but with musical references and more obvious inspirations of a couple of decades later. There is some fine shade and ascerbic wit across the album but in the end it’s about seeking the authentic in experiences and embracing one’s own feelings as valid and does so with passion and playfulness.
Friday | 07.01 What:Spyderland video/EP release w/Machu Linea and Random Temple When: 8 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Room Why: Spyderland is an electro pop duo comprised of Marie Litton and Drew McClellan. The two have been veterans of the Denver underground scene for years and to their credit this project is really unlike anything else they’ve done. Rather, they’ve taken their strengths as artists and applied then to crafting a different style of music meaning an experimental form of pop that can at times be a bit downtempo but with a spirited sense of play running through how they spark off each other as performers. It comes off as a bit of a musical dialogue which lends itself to a body of imaginative and fresh songwriting. For this show Spyderland is releasing a new animated video and its new EP. Machu Linea is a likeminded artist who can often be seen DJing around town but it turns out Armando Garibay has a gift for assembling beats and sounds that transform popular styles into something far more inventive. The 2020 album HeXotica showcased Garibay’s range as an artist and collaborator with some of the most talented artists in the local hip-hop and electronic music scenes. Random Temple has been in various types of bands over the years but under this moniker his ambient and IDM music freely weaves together textures, tones and even musical structures as a way to deconstruct conventions of genre.
Monday | 07.04 What:Zach Rowden, Terravault Network, Tripp Nasty and sleepdial When: 9 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Zach Rowden is a member of collaborative improvisational project Crazy Doberman that began life as a series of collaborations with John Olson of Wolf Eyes fame. But since its inception in the late 2010s Crazy Doberman has had a prolific output of recordings. Under his own name or with Tongue Depressor Rowden has been running experiments in texture and environmental sounds as they intersect with a hypnotic, almost ritualistic form of ambient. Terravault Network is Eli Windler (Spectral Voice, City Hunter, No Thought and others) and Kevin Wesley (Hot White) making industrial ambient soundscapes that sound like abstracted and processed environmental field recordings at a distance from an active factory late night near the train tracks and processed to preserve rhythms and an enigmatic mood. Tripp Nasty has had quite the eclectic run of music experiments over the years from modern classical music to performance art, weirdo punk and now an almost academic analog/modular synth composition project that he recently displayed opening for legendary avant-garde musician William Basinski. Sleepdial is Luke Thinnes’ musical alter ego to French Kettle Station. Whereas the latter pushes the boundaries of electronic dance music and new age pop, the former is Tim Hecker-esque textured ambient music that layers subtle running pulses and flowing drifts of white noise and purely abstract melody that conveys a sense of endless space and wonder.
Tuesday | 07.05 What: Darkest Hour w/Toxic Holocaust and Necropanther When: 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Darkest Hour from Washington D.C. has been evolving its particular flavor of melodic death metal mixed with post-hardcore since its inception in 1995. Its epic guitar progressions and apocalyptic visual style makes the band sound and look like something from the near future after the fallout of the collapse of worldwide civilization as we know it has been sorted out. This tour represents the group’s first with new lead guitarist Nico Santora and Darkest Hour will perform its 2007 album Deliver Us in its entirety and subsequent to the tour the group will return to the studio to record its tenth album. Opening the show is blackened death thrash mutants Necropanther from Denver as well as veteran thrash band Toxic Holocaust from Portland, Oregon whose own music has more than a leg in hardcore and grind as evidenced by its blast beats fused with acidic, Venom-esque menace.
Tuesday | 07.05 What:Under the Pier, The God Awful Truth, Vexing and Grief Ritual When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Under the Pier is a math-y post-hardcore outfit from Baltimore whose songs feel chaotic even as they are guided by a bizarre precision of execution. Vexing from Denver is difficult to pin down even though it clearly has roots in extreme metal and post-hardcore mainly because it also comes off like a grindcore band that’s dialing back the onslaught a little to let sounds hang in the air and hit you differently than a persistent force. Makes its gruff vocals and mathematically precise accents in a riff seem more nuanced and creative. Grief Ritual is going through some transitions since long time guitarist Mykel Monroe is departing but this may be a last chance to check out his guitar wizardry with Grief Ritual. Its own hardcore stylings have a brutal elegance from guitar pyrotechnics, to finely executed, cathartic vocals to surprisingly spare yet interlocking rhythms that allow for the songs to switch moods and focus of forcefulness with great flexibility. Its most recent album The Gallows Laugh may be more in the realm of metallic hardcore but has the beautifully confrontational and caustic quality of a melodic black metal record.
Wednesday | 07.06 What: Puscifer w/Moodie Black When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Puscifer is Maynard James Keenan’s vehicle for a plethora of creative musical ideas that don’t really fit in with the art prog of his more famous band Tool. So he’s been able to infuse it with some of his more innovative experiments in sound and theatrical performance. The group hasn’t toured the U.S.A. since 2016 and reports of shows and footage that has made it onto the internet reveals what you might hope for and expect with elaborate sets and Maynard performing almost like a cosmic variety show host and his cohort of weirdos. The most recent Puscifer album Existential Reckoning (2020) must have been a head scratcher for anyone expecting industrial rock or hard rock in general. Its extensive and evocative use of synths and other keyboards as the drivers of melody and dramatic vocals is tempting to compare to something Peter Gabriel might be doing now but also not unlike something Gary Numan might do and really one of the most sonically fascinating records of Keenan’s career thus far.
Thursday | 07.07 What:The Pine Hill Haints w/Glueman and George Cessna When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The Pine Hill Haints from Auburn, Alabama perform fairly traditional bluegrass and folky country with great the intensity and energy. Fans of rockabilly will probably appreciate what the Haints have to offer but its music also seems just slightly out of frame of normalcy to be interesting. Opening the show is George Cessna whose 2021 album Lucky Rider is a beautifully and paradoxically warmly haunting piece of work that transcends “alt-country” into the realm of slowcore and pastoral, Lanois-esque Americana that feels like reading an idiosyncratic noir novel comprised of impressionistic vignettes about navigating a culture and society in decline and trying to do something worthwhile with integrity in spite of one’s personal limitations and the weight of one’s history and attachment to tradition and sentimental notions.
Friday – Sunday | 07.08 – 07.10 What:Compost Heap Music Festival V When: 3-11 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Can’t sum up why better than the verbiage from the FB event below which includes set times and other information.
“It’s happening again! July 8th, 9th, and 10th! One of the biggest temporary DIY music festivals you’ll ever see! Three days of great music from underground bands from across the nation and local support that you may have never heard of but you will definitely love!
ACCESSIBILITY INFO: This event will be wheelchair accessible. ADA portapotty onsite. Proof of vaccination is required. Masks are strongly encouraged. Denver will be hot and dry, dress in breathable and moisture wicking clothing and avoid dark colors. There will be shade provided and cooling misting fans throughout the day. This event will be live-streamed. We created this festival with a goal, it’s organized to center and amplify the music and art of marginalized folks, and to celebrate radical perspectives and ideologies in general. It’s focus is to try and raise awareness about oppressive institutions that stunt our ability to flourish as individuals and communities, and to come together to resist against them for our collective liberation, express solidarity and make some new friends.
FRIDAY, JULY 8TH 4:00-4:25 Team Nonexistent 4:35-5:00 Mx Wander (PA) 5:10-5:35 Old Scratch & The Holy Mess (AZ) 5:45-6:10 Bird Teeth (WA) 6:20-6:45 Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:55-7:20 Endless, Nameless 7:30-7:55 Gutter Town (AZ) 8:05-8:30 Fables of the Fall 8:40-9:05 Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15-9:45 RAT BATH (WI) 10:00-10:30 Ceschi Ramos (CT) 10:45-11:15 Crow Cavalier
SATURDAY, JULY 9TH 3:00-4:00 OPEN MIC 4:00-4:25 Marissa. 4:35-5:00 Loud in the Morning (WA) 5:10-5:35 Sunnnner 5:45-6:10 HappyHappy (IN) 6:20-6:45 Fruiting Body of the Larger 6:55-7:20 Straight Line Arrival (ND) 7:30-7:55 Gila Teen 8:05-8:30 Danbert Nobacon (WA) (x Chumbawamba) 8:40-9:05 Ludlow (OR) 9:15-9:45 Self Neglect (NM) 10:00-10:30 Lo Cash Ninjas (NN) 10:45-11:15 Doom Scroll
SUNDAY, JULY 10TH 3:00-4:00 OPEN MIC 4:00-4:25 The Michael Character (MA) 4:35-5:00 Rumbletramp (NC) 5:10-5:35 Hello the Camp (ID) 5:45-6:10 Helga Pataki 6:20-6:45 Gone Full Heathen 6:55-7:20 The Ragetones 7:30-7:55 Mr. Atomic 8:05-8:30 Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks (IN) 8:40-9:05 Caustic Soda 9:15-9:45 Noogy (TX) 10:00-10:30 Plasma Canvas 10:45-11:15 Anxiety Cat (LA) (x Taxpayers)
Compost Heap music festival is a not-for-profit event. All festival revenue will be used to pay touring bands, or donated to the Harm Reduction Action Center in honor of Marci, a dear friend who is no longer with us. Thank you for your support.
$45-75 suggested donation for a weekend (3 day) pass
$20-25 suggested donation for a day pass
+$5 SEVENTH CIRCLE MEMBERSHIP FEE (if you don’t have one already): In order to attend any event at the venue you must posses a membership card. This helps 7C stay afloat and protects them from getting shut down, help keep DIY alive in Denver!
If you would like to pre-order your weekend pass, please email us @ email@example.com (please put “Compost Heap 2022 pass” in the subject line) You should get an immediate response, but if for some reason you don’t, please email firstname.lastname@example.org instead.”
Saturday | 07.09 What: Derek Monypeny w/New Standards Men, Sex Funeral and Pythian Whispers When: 2 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Derek Monypeny is coming from communing with the Methuselah tree to bring his accumulated musical wisdom fostered while living in Joshua Tree. Think drone and “free jazz” if you were hanging with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Werner Herzog. Sex Funeral brings their celebration of the transmogrification of tantric rites through the necromantic meditation practices cultivated in secret sites in southern Iowa. The manifestation of these mystical energies will emerge as improvisational ritual drone for guitar and electronics. New Standards Men are fresh off a sabbatical merging analog synth and guitar as synth alchemy as structured exercises based on the deep secret knowledge shared by Robert Moog, Don Buchla and Morton Subotnick as conducted by Terry Riley. And probably opening this afternoon of high psychedelic frequency modulation is Pythian Whispers. Lore has it the three early members of the band that wrote and performed the album The Dark Edge of Hippie Life met on a mountaintop, perhaps at Machu Picchu, perhaps at Alamut Castle, perhaps in the secret chamber below the skeletons of ancient trees at the top of Mount Evans. Whatever the truth might be and whatever arcane secrets of improvisational music learned it will be unleashed in short form by those ragged vagabonds of psych prog ambient. So what do you have to lose and trust me everything of something to gain? Probably donation based. We’ll see if Jodorowsky can come from Paris to do tarot readings for the event but no promises. Tamam shud.
Sunday | 07.10 What: Skeleton and Hulder When: 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Austin’s Skeleton started out as a hardcore band but has since its 2014 inception morphed into something that has clear sonic roots in thrash and black metal. Its 2020 self-titled album is too slow to be some kind of crossover thing but not slow enough to be some kind of doom project. Its blunt yet jagged riffs are reminiscent of early thrash but without be defined by that aesthetic. Also on the bill is HULDER whose own black metal style weaves together an elegant classical music sensibility with a refined black metal onslaught that reaches epic peaks of evocative and gritty atmospheres like the elevated subjects of her songs. The new album The Eternal Fanfare finds HULDER expanding her sonic palette so that melody and texture seem to work in perfect tandem to cinematic effect like scoring the saga of an ancient heroic journey to the underworld and back.
Monday | 07.11 What:TV Star w/Broken Record, Flor De La Luna and Duck Turnstone When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: TV Star from Seattle apparently aimed at being somewhere between the sound of dysfunctional era The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the more dream pop period of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But it ended up more in the realm of late period Sarah Records jangle pop with delicate melodies and warm vocals. Denver’s “Flora de la Luna” talks about being a “tough guy boy band” but really sounds more like an angsty power pop band with really tight songwriting and enough sneer to keep it from being safe. Maybe that’s what they meant by the whole “tough guy” thing that one presumes was a more humorous and ironic thing you write about your band as an inside joke. Broken Record also from Denver is like if an emo band discovered Dinosaur Jr and didn’t shed some of its roots including drawing some slight inspiration from Rainer Maria. duck turnstone is the band fronted by Melissa K. Jones who moved to Denver in 2018 with her then partner, apparently had an ugly break-up, and then shortly thereafter the pandemic happened and she had the opportunity to pour some of her heartbreak into writing music that in 2021 she was able to turn into a full band shortly after she released the album Howling & Crying under her own name. The album is a collection of vivid and delicate portraits of human vulnerability and exploring the nuances of rebuilding your life on your own terms. The live band is more in the power/indie pop vein.
Tuesday | 07.12 What: Kill You Club Presents: Haunt Me w/Weathered Statues, S!ntax and Precious Blood When: 8 p.m. Where: Glob Why: Haunt Me is a post-punk/darkwave band from Austin whose 2021 album This Sadness Never Ends had some familiar hallmarks of the genre with the spidery guitar melodies and Paul Banks-esque vocals. But Haunt Me tends to switch up the rhythms and dynamics in unexpected ways and never full stays the same vibe for the whole song thus setting itself apart from many of its peers. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver with roots in the local punk scene. S!ntax is an industrial noise project with some grounding in confrontational performance art.
Tuesday and Wednesday | 07.12 and 07.13 What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo Cozmo When: 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: [Rescheduled from April 2022] 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.
Wednesday | 07.13 What:The Black Keys w/Band of Horses and Ceramic Animal When: 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: When The Black Keys started out of Akron, Ohio in 2001 it seemed very much like a niche, blues rock outfit like the lesser cousin of The White Stripes. When the duo first rolled through Denver it played small venues like Lion’s Lair where it opened for Reverend Dead Eye. But Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney stuck it out and developed their sound and songwriting and transformed what was likely a stripped down initial configuration into something more akin to a minimalist funk phenomenon as embodied well by its 2022 album Dropout Boogie. With the expansion of sounds and textures for the album the touring line-up of the band is also much more expansive than the core of Auerbach and Carney that will showcase how The Black Keys are a bit like a blues based rock version of ELO which is no bad thing. Opening is the well-known indie rock power pop group Band of Horses whose expansive songwriting is irresistibly uplifting especially its 2006 hit “The Funeral.” The proceedings will begin with a set from Ceramic Animal whose Dan Auerbach produced new album Sweet Unknown is brimming with warmly melancholic songs informed by a poignantly tangible sense of loss and reconciliation with emotional devastation and the inadequacy with which life and culture prepares one for the loss of the most significant people in your life.
Friday | 07.15 What:Primitive Man w/INDIAN, Jarhead Fertilizer, Body Void, Spirit Possession and Elizabeth Colour Wheel When: 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Primitive Man assembled one of the most interesting lineups of heavy music you’re likely to see in Denver all year in celebration of its 10 year anniversary as a band. The death-grind trio has long created some of the most brutal, crushing and exciting music of the past decade obliterating the line between noise, extreme metal and doom while making commentary on a world all but ruined by international corruption and collusion in diminishing the lives of everyone below the 1% of the 1% of the economic and political power scale in ways deranged and in the end self-destructive. It’s cathartic stuff and in its sharp edges and raw ugliness holds a mirror up to the world we all feel hitting us but may not see or hear concentrated so powerfully in one place. It will also be one of the few times to see the band locally for a good deal of time to come. Chicago’s INDIAN has for nearly 20 years crafted a sound that wouldn’t be out of step with what one hears out of a band on Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go but with more sludge rock flavor and songs that go in for a more fluid and wide ranging dynamism than most bands that get lumped in with the canon of doom. Elizabeth Colour Wheel is a startlingly energetic fusion of a noisy shoegaze band and a grindcore outfit as unlikely as that combination sounds. Body Void’s ominous, clashing guitar and drum interplay has a somehow both feral and elegant quality that lends the desperate, distorted vocals an elevated outrage and pain like a harsh noise duo using more standard instrumentation to deliver a dense, caustic and textural soundscape.
Friday | 07.15 What:Knuckle Pups “TV Ready” album release w/Jeff Cormack of South of France and Earth to Luna When: 7 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Knuckle Pups is an indie pop band that has been around for a few years but which is finally putting out its debut album TV Ready. Oliver Holloway was once a member of the great folk punk band The Fainting Fansies that used to hold shows at a place where some or all of the band members lived back when people could rent out a house in neglected or underutilized houses or buildings in Denver. That time in deep, DIY “Old Denver” days has stuck with Holloway and Knuckle Pups isn’t a band short on charmingly earnest expressions of joy helped by the fact that the group’s multiple singers harmonize extraordinarily well.
Saturday | 07.16 What:The Velveteers w/Sky Creature and Holographic American When: 2 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This is probably the smallest venue you’re going to see The Velveteers play for some time. The band that has taken a foundation of a modern interpretation of classic blues rock and infused it with sharply observed lyrics, imagination and youthful energy has been and will go to keep touring with Greta Van Fleet and playing big cities and the hinterland to large crowds. And that will be quite a contrast with Queens, NY-based experimental pop band Sky Creature whose new album Bear Mountain is exuberant and ethereal and by all indications mostly electronic. Majel Connery has a voice that is both intense and fey which suits being paired with music that sounds like something you’d want to hear if you could travel to a museum of snow globes and spend time in each exploring the worlds of which each gives you a surface level taste. It’s otherworldly stuff and has a cool energy that will be welcome on what is likely to be a hot day in Denver. Holographic American is a trio consisting of guitarist Caleb Tardio formerly of math rock wizard weirdos I Sank Molly Brown and currently of doom metal greats NightWraith and drummer Matt Grizzell who some may know for his time with prog indie band Alan Alda and indie rockers Instant Empire along with bassist Owen Pearson. So of course it’s a little different with some of that math rock vibe in its songs thus far released in demo form but moody and delicately and intricately yet not busily melodic.
Saturday | 07.16 What:Green Typewriters album release w/Falcon’s Eye When: 7 p.m. Where: Enigma Bazaar Why: After fifteen years the psychedelic indiepop band Green Typerwriters are finally releasing its debut EP The Solar Anus which brings together musical ideas across its entire existence for a beautifully coherent and moving experimental pop album with as much wisdom as whimsy. Engineered and produced by Zach Bauer, one of Denver’s secret, genius pop songwriters and recordists, who most that know who he is know for having been a member of avant noise punks Zombie Zombie, stoner doom trio The Outer Neon, psychedelic post-punk art rock band Wicked Phoenix and Can tribute band Future Days. Among others. So you know the album is going to sound good and for the show the band is bringing in guests and making it the kind of show that you’re not going to get to see every day. Look out for the Queen City Sounds Podcast episode featuring Gioja and Jared Lacy from the band.
Saturday | 07.16 What: Emerald Siam, Cyclo Sonic and Bridey Murphy When: 8 p.m. Where: 1010 Workshop Why: Denver is fortunate that some of its elder statesmen and stateswomen are still out there making valid, interesting and imaginative music. So Emerald Siam and its flood of brooding atmospherics and rich emotional colorings help to turn finely honed songwriting into something that seems larger than life and will seem like you’re getting to see something mythical outside at 1010 Workshop. The band’s blend of post-punk darkness and the way The Church took that framework into a more psychedelic and expansive realm of music as a platform for telling meaningful stories with arrestingly poetic lyrics. Cyclo Sonic may be basically a garage rock punk band but when it’s Matt Bischoff formerly of The Fluid and Arnie Beckman formerly of Choosey Mothers and other luminaries of the local punk scene the songwriting just hits as stronger and the precision of rhythm pushed forward and working in tandem with a ferocious energy it makes a lot of other operating in a similar realm of music seem quaint. Bridey Murphy includes Jay Tonne (Black Forest Fire), John Call (Baldo Rex, Veronica), Rich Groskopf (Boss 302, The Black Smiths, The New Idols etc.), Collette St. Clair and Dave Harrison so it’s going to not be short on rock theater and surprisingly fun songs in the garage rock and soul vein.
Saturday | 07.16 What:Cola w/Voight and Gazes When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Cola consists of Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy formerly of great now defunct Canadian post-punk band Ought along with Evan Cartwright. When Ought split in 2021 ending a decade-long run as one of the more interesting and inventive guitar rock bands of recent years Cola came along shortly after and its 2022 debut album Deep In View (Fire Talk) with its offbeat song structures and hypnotic rhythms will appeal to fans of Ought for sure but also anyone who appreciates the art rock proclivities of a band like Pile. Voight may still be a guitar band at this point and not yet committed to being a full-on dark techno and power electronics project so you’ll get to see the post-punk/darkwave band scorch the rafters with its own intense and emotionally charged music. This is the first Gazes show and it features former Tyto Alba members Melanie Steinway and Andrew Bair along with former Male Blonding vocalist/guitarist Noah Simons. It’s a curse to call a band a supergroup but considering the membership of Gazes expect great things in a vein that will fit in with this bill overall.
Saturday | 07.16 What: Itchy-O’s Tetrapolar Purification Ceremony w/BleakHeart When: 7 p.m. Where: Fillmore Auditorium Why: Itchy-O has seemingly found ways to imbue its few shows on the large scale with an aspect of the mystical and tie it to a new dimension of the band’s sound and performance. This time the Tetrapolar Purification Ceremony will signal the debut of the SÖM SÄPTÄLAHN, a massive instrument inspired by the gamelan assembled from over six hundred pounds of cynbals and gongs donated from local percussionists and crafted in collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, a prestigious academic institution that specializes in geology and engineering. The show will include an audience participation aspect involving three elemental themes of Fire, Air and Water. Perhaps the fourth in the “tetrapolar” theme of earth is the SÖM SÄPTÄLAHN itself. For Patreon supporters of the band there will be a ticket giveaway to an “augmented reality scavenger hunt.” It’s always an extravaganza of sights and sounds and with the addition of the new instrument it’s going to be a new era for the band that has consistently found ways to augment already familiar elements in new ways with new ritualistic creativity.
Wednesday | 07.20 What:Steve Von Till and Helen Money When: 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Steve Von Till is the charismatic singer and guitarist from influential post-metal band Neurosis. Anyone familiar with the long arc of stylistic experiments in that band will probably appreciate what Von Till has done as a solo artist. His raspy vocals often sound like they’re harboring haunted memories and a flood of emotion that he has released in focused, cathartic bursts. His most recent albums No Wilderness Deep Enough (2020) and A Deep Voiceless Wilderness showcase the songwriter’s ear for organic song structure like his instrumentation is a direct reflection of the moods and feelings as weather patterns that swirl around you when you take a long period to reflect deeply on life and the often hidden wells of emotions you neglect as you spiral through life in a cultural hellscape that does little to nurture our humanity. Alison Chesley as Helen Money has contributed imaginative and evocative cello work for the likes of Bob Mould, Mono, Russian Circles, Broken Social Scene, Chris Connelly and Thalia Zedek. But her own arresting compositions have a stark yet maximalist beauty. With her cello, a spare chain of effects and a looping pedal, Chesley creates an orchestra of one that is both surprisingly heavy and elegantly ethereal, imbued with the compositional architecture of classical music. Her most recent album Atomic (Thrill Jockey, 2020) likely didn’t get the proper presentation as Von Till’s own most recent records didn’t and the sets of both artists seem like the perfect complement to each other’s.
Wednesday | 07.20 What:French Police w/Wisteria and Julian St. Nightmare When: 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: French Police from Chicago have a brooding and delicate, darkly melodic sound like they dug deep into Italian and Russian post-punk of the 80s and wrote a set of songs in a cold apartment and had to do so through headphones so as not to get a noise complaint from a neighbor. That’s probably not how the music came about but it has that intimate and mildly claustrophobic quality that is also part of its downtempo charm. Wisteria from Los Angeles seems to have come out of a similar process of crafting the darkwave equivalent of bedroom pop with a thin synth sound that is somehow also evocative in a tender way that is a bit like one imagines what would have happened had New Order had to construct its music given similar limitations on writing the music. Julian St. Nightmare is a great example of when people discover an eclectic musical palette at a young age and find a way to integrate it all into a coherent and vibrant sound so you hear in its songs the influence of surf rock, Molchat Doma and The Cure—all performed with a for now self-effacing confidence and charm.
Friday | 07.22 What:CXCXCX w/Occidental, Perdi La Luz, K129, Organ and DJ Precious Blood When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This is a Plains Archaic showcase featuring artists affiliated with the Denver-based experimental music label. CXCXCX seamlessly blends noise, techno and power electronics for a sound like dance music for a crumbling civilization. Occidental was once and may still be affiliated with the electronic music collective Deep Club that used to hold some of the most interesting and well curated underground techno and deep house and other forward thinking electronic music events in Denver for a few years. His own sound is more like a fusion of deep house and trance. Perdi La Luz is reminiscent of the kind of fluid and psychedelic techno one heard on some edges of what Underworld and Future Sound of London were doing in the late 90s. K129 plugs some well processed organic percussive sounds into a beat heavy techno mix. Organ is a collaboration between glitch techno noise artist Cremedelacrvvp and industrial glitchcore ambient artist Kid Mask. DJ Precious Blood recently did a solid post-punk set at a Kill You Club event for the Haunt You show but for this event we may hear some deep recent techno and IDM cuts.
Friday | 07.22 What: Vinny Golia w/SeFaLoCo When: 7 p.m. Where: Atlas Theater (709 16th St. Greeley) Why: Vinny Golia is a prolific and respected multi-instrumentalist and composer whose career has fused world music, modern classical music and avant-garde jazz. A specialist in woodwinds Golia’s work has been featured in performance with the likes of Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Patti Smith, Eugene Chadbourne, Lydia Lunch and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. He has led ensembles as small as the trio that will perform a series of three shows in eastern Colorado (this date in Greeley and others listed below) to the 50-piece Vinny Golia Large Ensemble. His music in both the small and larger format are vehicles for his imaginative musicianship with musical ideas that span more broadly and deeply than most musicians will ever attempt. Even in his 70s Golia has been an innovator in the use of texture and atmosphere and his 2020 album Music for Gongs, Singing Bowls and other Metallaphones is like the lost soundtrack for an elevated horror masterpiece (there’s even a song called “King of the Spanish Horror Movies”) while also sounding like a nod to Alex North’s score for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Penderecki. Not many free jazz masters of Golia’s stature roll through Colorado and this series of intimate shows might be a good time to catch him live.
Saturday | 07.23 What:Multidim Records Presents Listening Lawn II: DJ Ilind, Polly Urethane, Deb the Demo, Luke Leavitt, H-Lite and Entrancer When: 5-8 p.m. Where: Carpio Sanguinette Park Why: Multidim has been releasing some of the most forward thinking electronic music of the past few years and this showcase held at the Carpio Sanguinette Park includes a DJ set from avant-garde noise and techo artist Isaac Linder as Ilind, a purportedly more mellow performance from Polly Urethane whose recent live sets have been a bravura display of the blending of contemporary classical, industrial noise and the avant-garde, Deb the Demo’s tracks capture the mood of the modern media environment with both playful and urgent pieces of techno house that really push the brain beyond preconceptions of the genre and the methods of emotional expression, Luke Leavitt is always doing something different and even though many may know him for the expanded Afrobeat No Wave of his time as Cop Circles there will be a conceptual aspect to his performance with an intentional discipline behind the making of sounds, H-Lite has made some bright and upbeat electronic downtempo glitchcore bangers but his own sonic palette is also so broad and imaginative he’ll bring surprises too and of course Entrancer has been steadily refining and expanding his own craft of techno utilizing analog synths and a visionary challenging of where he’s already been as an artist.
Saturday | 07.23 What: Dust City Opera When: 9 p.m. Where: Broadway Roxy Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its latest album Alien Summer and perhaps fortuitously making a stop during an unusual summer in Denver and elsewhere with heat waves and social turmoil brewing. So the band’s theatrical performance of songs that sound like a colorful manifestation of years spent taking in campy science fiction and horror cinema and taking away from it all the inspiration to craft songs that don’t fit neatly into a trendy genre. The songs on the album is like a collection of poignant and poetic stories of human life even when the setting is a zombie apocalypse or an encounter with aliens. The pure amalgamation of chamber pop, indie folk and a hard rock edge in the guitar convey a cinematic feel that draws you in for the duration. Intimate and epic the miniature grunge and indiepop orchestra of Dust City Opera is something unique in an era of too much bland imitation.
Saturday | 07.23 What:Vinny Golia w/SeFaLoCo When: 7 p.m. Where: Muse Performance Space (Lafayette) Why: See above for more on Vinny Golia.
Sunday | 07.24 What:Vinny Golia Trio When: 2 p.m. Where: Art Lab (Fort Collins) Why: See above for more on Vinny Golia.
Wednesday | 07.27 What:Goo Goo Dolls w/Blue October Where: Red Rocks Why: Goo Goo Dolls became a bit of a household name in the 90s due to hit songs like “Name” (1995) and of course “Iris” (1998). But the band originally from Buffalo, New York garnered a bit of a cult following during its early punk and then more power pop years for its potent blend of tunefulness, grit and raw emotional honesty. The group lead by singers John Rzeznik and Robby Takac has made a career of writing evocative songs about relationships, life and finding essential meanings in all of it so that even its ballads, love them or not, are not generally trite or without insightful commentary. The group’s latest album Chaos in Bloom, the first produced by Rzeznik, is definitely more in the realm of modern pop but if you watch the video for “Yeah, I Like You” you can hear more than a touch of that early punk rock verve and sharply observed social and personal commentary that sets it apart from a lot modern pop rock with undeniable instrumental hooks to pair with energetic vocal harmonies. But if you go it seems like there’s a better than average chance the Goo Goo Dolls will dip into its back catalog and not just the biggest hits.
Wednesday | 07.27 What:Roselit Bone w/Snakes and No Gossip In Braille When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Portland, Oregon-based Roselit Bone fronted by trans singer Charlotte McCaslin is somehow a rockabilly band, dark Americana, Mexican ranchera and whatever one might call the likes of Gun Club, The Blasters and Lone Justice. It’s a really different take on genre bending so that it can seem like some countrified folk but with the intensity of punk without the sonic trappings. Its most recent album Crisis Actor is a little more gentle in tenor but not in attitude and its songs of daily struggle and working class politics are poignant and powerful. Snakes similarly has the kind of frayed musical roots that bring together a variety of musical instincts in forming its own dark Americana informed by nuanced thinking on the ways one has conversations with oneself in an ongoing process of sorting out the oftentimes perverse misfortunes and charmed moments in life. It’s lively music but more philosophical than expected from music that has a similar flavor. No Gossip in Braille is decidedly not Americana but its ethereal post-punk comes from a similar emotional place in exploring and making meaning of experiences that hit us as vital whatever their essential and specific impact on our lives.
Thursday | 07.28 What:Black Star w/Dead Prez, Pharoahe Monch and TH1RT3EN When: 7 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Yasin Bey and Talib Kweli were already stars of hip-hop in their own right when they formed Black Star in 1997 named after a shipping company founded by Pan-Africanist political activist Marcus Garvey. The project’s debut album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998) was pretty much an instant classic with thoughtful explorations of black culture with beats more in line with late-80s and early 90s hip-hop with a creative and vivid use of jazz and funk samples as well as more unique sounds that framed the powerful lyrics well in establishing a mood with cinematic resonance. Afterward the duo released a single here and there while focusing on other musical and creative endeavors. But in 2022 Black Star released its most recent record No Fear of Time. The almost existentialist bent of the lyrics remained but seemingly more direct and with music more stark yet no less imaginative and immersive. Black Star has toured in the last 25 years but not often and somehow its music seems even more relevant in subject matter today.
Thursday | 07.28 What: Lost Network, Blackcell and DJ Mudwulf When: 9 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Lost Network might be considered an industrial rock band but more on the industrial side and plenty of its output is more in the realm of darkly ambient soundscapes. Though its guitar sound is more cutting and its sound often more jagged, fans of The Tea Party may find what this veteran band out of the Denver scene has been doing for years. Also on the bill is long-running, legendary EBM band Blackcell whose sharp social commentary and personal songwriting blurs the line between ambient music and classic EBM the first wave of which it emerged out of the tail end. Of course DJ Mudwulf will bring a set of songs that are well curated and also not 100% predictable. A lot of music out of the Goth-industrial world can be corny but that won’t be on display at this show.
Saturday | 07.30 What: TRAITRS w/Radio Scarlet and Wingtips and DJ Luci Ghost When: 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Canadian post-punk band TRAITRS on its 2021 album Horses in the Abattoir separated itself from many bands out of that vein of music with creative vocals that don’t sound like a cut-rate imitation of any obvious influences. And its synth work and songwriting has an orchestral aesthetic that establishes a truly enveloping and haunting sound that isn’t driven by the wheedly guitar sound that is the hallmark of too much darkwave now. TRAITRS’ sound is rich and expansive and though melancholic isn’t a downer. Chicago’s Wingtips is more electronic and one hears in its music including 2021’s excellent Cutting Room Floor a touch of influence from Vince Clarke-period Depeche Mode. Its moody songs have strong dance beats and the vocals widely expressive also distinguishing the group from some of its peers that intentionally sing in ways murky and obscure. There is something effusive in Wingtips’ songs that are immediately striking. Radio Scalet is a death rock band from Denver. The title of its 2017 album Too Goth for Punk, Too Punk for Goth sums up its aesthetic well and sure these people look the part but there is a joyful element to its performances that prevents it from slipping into the wrong end of dour. DJ Luci Ghost is a long time DJ in the local Goth-industrial scene but fortunately for anyone that is around for one of her sets her taste is much more eclectic and expansive beyond narrow conceptions of expected music.
Kyle Emerson just released his second album as a solo artist, the introspective and thought-provoking Only Coming Down. The songwriter recently relocated back to Los Angeles in August 2019 after a stint back in Denver where he originally came to the attention of fans of psychedelic pop during his stint in the band Plum. For a couple of years, the latter was a bit of a buzz band before it realized that maybe Denver wasn’t the best place to base a band that seemed to have the opportunity expand its reach beyond the local scene, beyond being nominated for local awards and playing the same gauntlet of small clubs and occasionally playing bigger venues like the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater or graduate in draw and popularity to the Gothic Theatre at 1,100. Plum moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and within about a year Emerson had left the band and not long after Plum fizzled out. For some that would have been discouragement enough but not for Emerson who had already relocated once to pursue his dream of being a musician with a career.
Emerson was born in Northern Ohio not far south of Detroit where his father was a worship leader at a non-denominational church. While involved in a worship band Emerson learned some music theory from the group’s leader who also shared his love of Radiohead, indie rock and later era alternative music. Emerson also connected with and studied guitar under a music teacher of a local private school, Patrick Paringer, who had grown up in Seattle and known Elliott Smith. At that time Emerson the current bassist in his live band Dan Volmer who also played in the youth group band.
After high school a number of Emerson’s friends moved to Colorado and Brooklyn. Those that moved to the latter offered to let him join their band and sleep on their couch until he got on his feet. But life in NYC was daunting and Emerson didn’t feel like he was ready to live in the city on his own.
Colorado beckoned in 2014 and before moving to Denver Emerson was blithely unaware of happenings in the state and city. He did not know about the legalization of recreational cannabis or that the city was experiencing its largest and longest period of population growth in many years with many musicians moving to Denver seeking out the opportunity for perceived overnight success of acts like The Lumineers and The Fray or at least to be in a place where music was happening and the scene not yet oversaturated. Emerson’s friend Andrew Bair (now of dream pop phenoms Tyto Alba and other projects), son of the pastor of Emerson’s church in Ohio, had moved to Denver and he felt like with Bair and other friends around he could keep his footing in a less expensive city than New York. So he moved into a two bedroom apartment at Thirteenth Avenue and Marion St. near the former location of the Gypsy House Café and shared a room with Volmer for a few months before moving in with the guys from Plum in the Villa Park neighborhood of west central Denver.
The fledgling band had a lot going for it aside from musical and songwriting talent. Ty Baron was a music business major and did some talent buying at Larimer Lounge, a club where many up and coming acts perform weekly, and Jake Supple had been also playing in Abandin Pictures, a group with some cachet in the local psychedelic rock world (he now performs in Flaural). Both had navigated the local music world both as artists and on the less romantic business end of what it actually means to be in a band that might want to do more than play for a few dollars and free drinks.
But like a lot of bands Plum ran into that often unspoken barrier to a lot of bands from Denver and Colorado generally that prevents most from reaching beyond the local band status. Sure, there are anomalies like the aforementioned Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and on a smaller scale, Tennis. But outside of jam bands and the EDM world, not a lot of in between being bonafide famous and “local band” status regardless of one’s artistic merits. So even though the move and living in cramped quarters in what was essentially a practice space in L.A. lead to the band breaking up, the decision to relocate was understandable. When you have some hype at home it stands to reason you can build that elsewhere, especially when you’re young.
When Emerson left Plum in 2016 he moved back to Denver where he had some roots and connections and wrote and recorded his moving debut solo album, 2017’s Dorothy Alice. It combined Emerson’s insightful lyrics and storytelling with a folky psychedelia and almost textural atmospheric melodies. The sound has become a bit of the songwriter’s signature sound. Emerson had recently split with his then girlfriend and on top of the other experiences it’s no wonder there is more than a bit of a melancholic vibe to Dorothy Alice that is part of its deep appeal. But recorded with Jeff Cormack of pop band South of France and Justin Renaud of psychedelic rock outfit Sunboy the record reflects Emerson’s renewed hope for his music and his affection for the Mile High City.
“It felt very Denver, very Colorado and it felt great to be back,” says Emerson. “I was living back in that old house where Plum was living. It was like picking up where I had left off in a weird way.”
Emerson didn’t waste any time in writing for his sophomore record nor did he intend for it to come across like a journal entry of the last few years as he moved from Denver to Los Angeles, then repeating that same move and the experiences that framed those moves but it does. In writing the new material Emerson had no working title, which he feels might influence the sound of a record and songs chosen for better or worse, it just came to him one day. “You talk about the come down from anything, a natural high or drugs or alcohol or whatever,” says Emerson. “The more I conceptualize it I don’t know if it gets cooler or more lame but I just think there’s something about if you’re only ever coming down then there was no high on the other side of it.”
Emerson also suffered from a bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a kid and the acronym has the same letters as Only Coming Down. It reflects the fact that Emerson feels that music was the only thing that got him out of that head space of focusing so much on minutiae to the detriment of a productive life. Now in the process of writing his third record Emerson realized that he had to grow up.
“It’s not a conscious thing for a lot of people and you dabble in things you know you need to move on from,” explains Emerson. “The last two records are about the woes of growing into yourself. You’re always growing up your entire life. It’s not like you get to a certain place and you’ve arrived. There was something about putting a bookend on a lot of the themes I was writing about and the things I was feeling. The title summarized that feeling in so many ways with just three words.”
The heaviness that many listeners heard on Dorothy Alice is still there on Only Coming Down but the early feedback has remarked on it being upbeat. Whether it’s Emerson’s recent decision to use more electronics on the new record since discarding a purist’s disdain for technology or the more than a hint of hope in his songs that often contrast hope and despair, or the songwriter’s compassionate take on his role as a musician, the new album definitely tilts toward the positive.
“I don’t play party music, it’s not like that,” says Emerson. “But it’s like I stand in front of a room full of people who at the end of the day are just there to have a good time and as artistic as this can get and as some songwriters and musicians think they are I do believe in the power of positivity. I didn’t think about that so much when I was younger but now if you can say yeah this sucks but I’m here for you, it’s going to get better. I think that’s more worthwhile to say than it’s all shit and then we die. I think there’s power and reality in both of those, I just find it a little bit easier living in the first one a little easier.”
Catch Emerson live during his run of shows in Colorado with Houndmouth:
Who:Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.
Who:Life After Earth and Brother Saturn When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.
What:Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5 When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.
Who:Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.
Who:Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m. Where: Tandem Bar Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.
Saturday | April 13
Who:DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.
Who:Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: People’s Building Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.
Who:Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.
Who:Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.
Who:Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.
Sunday | April 14
Who:Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”
All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.
In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.
Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.
Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.
After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.
2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.
What:Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.
Monday | April 15
Who:Ex Hex w/Moaning When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.
Tuesday | April 16
Who:Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.
Who:Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.
Who:Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.
Wednesday | April 17
What:HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.
Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.
Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.