The Beautiful Heartbreak of Hancock and Washington at Mission Ballroom on August 14, 2019

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Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington at Mission Ballroom, 8/14/2019, photo by Tom Murphy

The relatively new Mission Ballroom hosted two living titans of jazz on August 14, 2019 when Herbie Hancock headlined with Kamasi Washington opening. Hancock has been an innovator in the genre and an influence on plenty of other styles of music going back to at the 1960s as a genre-bending genius whose contribution to other people’s music and his own band leading has expanded what jazz can be and sound like and look like. Washington has long established himself as a choice player in modern R&B, hip-hop, jazz and funk in his own right including turns on the last two Kendrick Lamar albums. Hancock the piano wizard, and Washington a brilliant sax player. The room proved itself apt for letting both musicians and their players shine through impeccable sound, something that isn’t the case with a lot of rooms of comparable size.

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Kamasi Washington and band at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Washington’s band looked almost tranquil when it performed but if expressions speaks volumes and listening and trusting collective musical instincts is the telepathy of music this group took us through a soul stirring journey. Playing select songs from across Washington’s repertoire, the band’s flow of feeling and expression thereof through its creative chemistry demonstrated that this was a living music that invited you in for the experience of what went behind the writing of the songs beyond the clearly masterful arrangements that were open enough for collective orchestration. The raw power of the music was heartbreaking. You heard the sorrow, the pain, the struggle, the grace in the face of adversity and the urgency of wondering when things would finally be better in the world. Without many words excepting “Fists of Fury” and other pieces with lyrics the group conjured an elegantly yet passionately articulated sense of people hurting from a lifetime, generations, of oppression. The weight of it, of not being taken seriously as a human, not being valued for contributing to culture or society but being barred from doing so in so many ways. The disenfranchisement that cuts deep and affects your psyche. But Washington’s music also brought out the beauty of the underlying knowledge that things don’t have to remain this way if we have the will to cast it off even if that will take a daunting level of work and the willingness of people to change. The music offered no solutions, no solace while also not sitting deep in despair. It was a channeling of that soul crushing sadness into something that couldn’t help but affect you and bring you to tears.

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Kamasi Washington and band at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Herbie Hancock seemed to be in high spirits when his own group took the stage and performed music from a broad spectrum of his career including choice cuts from his 1973 landmark Head Hunters, 1974’s Thrust and 1978’s Sunlight with a trip back to 1964 and “Cantaloupe Island.” Hancock told us he’d played Boulder and Denver many times and had a certain affection for the now defunct Tulagi’s in Boulder. When Hancock asked the crowd, “Are you ready for some weird stuff?” the band ably delivered with a psychedelic funk festooned with a maximalist improv groove on the core of the established songs like “Actual Proof” and “Chameleon.” When the group went into “Cantaloupe Island” it got a modern flavor.

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Herbie Hancock and band at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Lionel Loueke played like a space alien visiting to play in this band and laying down some of the most out guitar licks anyone is likely to on anyone’s tour now. Hancock told us something like how he’s played with the top ten drummers but that Vinnie Colaiuta was in the top echelon of even those players and he lived up to those words. James Genus held down the low end with an elegant flow of bass on loan from Saturday Night Live. But perhaps surprising was Terrence Martin playing not only keyboards but impressive sax chops to boot. Having produced the most recent two Kendrick Lamar albums we came to find out he’ll be working with Hancock soon on the pianists next record. The sheer joy of Hancock’s playing and his humor and chemistry with the band was riveting and vital.

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Herbie Hancock at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

At the end of the set, following “Cantaloupe Island,” Hancock and company performed a bit of “Rockit” including his signature keytar, brought out earlier in the set, and for the closing jam Washington came out with members of his own band and it seemed like everyone was on the same page, sharing the same spirit and showcasing some of of the best of what has been produced in American culture over the last six decades and not a passing of the torch so much as an acknowledgment of one classic master for the talent of a relative newcomer and vice versa as people who have helped make our world seem more compassionate and not functionally drab.

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Kamasi Washington and band at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy
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Kamasi Washington and band at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy
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Herbie Hancock at Mission Ballroom, August 14, 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver 8/9/19 – 8/14/19

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Rolling Stones perform at Mile High Stadium on August 10. Photo by Dave Hogan.

Friday | August 9

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Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel, photo by Ian Collins

What: The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel
When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.

What: The Yellow Rake 15 year anniversary night 1 w/Simulators, Moon Pussy, Charly Fasano, Brian Polk and Karl Christian Krumpholz
When: Friday, 08.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Yellow Rake is a Denver-based literary and culture magazine that is celebrating a remarkable fifteen years in existence with performances from local bands Simulators and Moon Pussy and writers and artists Charly Fasano, Karl Christian Krumpholz and Yellow Rake founder Brian Polk. The celebration will run two nights beginning tonight at Mutiny Information Café.

What: Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word
When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Tracks
Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.

Saturday | August 10

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This Will Destroy You, photo by Veronika Reinert

What: This Will Destroy You w/Brin
When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.

What: Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour
When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mile High Stadium
Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.

What: GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.

What: The Yellow Rake 15th Anniversary Night 2: SPELLS, Black Dots, Muscle Beach and Joy Subtraction
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The second night of The Yellow Rake’s celebration of fifteen years of existence takes place at the Hi-Dive with some of Denver’s best punk and post-hardcore bands.

What: Glasss Fest Day 1
When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.

12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat

Sunday | August 11

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Umbras Animas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Glasss Fest Day 2
When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: See above for Glasss Fest.

1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
4:30 Wngdu
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
9:30 Sadbug
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set

Tuesday | August 13

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Plume Varia, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.

What: Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.

What: Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward
When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.

Wednesday | August 14

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Kamasi Washington, photo by Durimel

What: Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington
When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.

Best Shows in Denver 10/25/18 – 10/31/18

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Black Moth Super Rainbow performs at The Bluebird Theater on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 with Stargazer Lilies and Air Credits. Photo courtesy the artist.

Thursday | October 25, 2018

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The Damned, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: The Damned w/Radkey and The Darts
When: Thursday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Damned famously released the first UK punk single “New Rose” on October 22, 1976 through Stiff Records. While the group didn’t cause as much of a stir as the Sex Pistols or garner as much fame as The Clash, it has, long term has arguably been as influential as both on not just punk generally but also post-punk and Goth with its aesthetic, musically and in terms of visual style. After several lineup changes, including founding member Captain Sensible coming and out of the band, The Damned have persisted as a vital live act. In 2018 the group released its first album in a decade: Evil Spirits. Easily the band’s best, most satisfying record since the late 70s, Evil Spirits doesn’t break new ground, it just reaffirms the fact that The Damned may have been punk but it’s also one not short on strong songwriting. Sounding somewhere between a more raw 70s glam band and thoughtful 80s post-punk, the new set of songs from The Damned are a somewhat melancholic take on the state of the world but inside that tonality is a spirit of defiance through creativity. Also on this tour is Radkey, a trio comprised of the Radke brothers whose style of garage punk is more in the vein of early pioneers like Death and, well, The Damned.

Who: Demeoncassettecult, bios+a+ic + Equine, Pearils & Perils, Juniordeer, Sobremarcha and SADnois
When: Thursday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Demoncassettecult will perform material from his time in industrial noise duo Dr. Montgomery Maxwell at this show. Biostatic will team up for a unique set with guitar drone artist Equine. Pearils & Perils will bring some dusky atmospheric, downtempo R&B..

Who: Fathers and Muscle Beach Tour Kickoff w/Nightwraith and Limbwrecker
When: Thursday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Two of Denver’s metallic, post-hardcore bands are going on tour and celebrating the occasion with this kickoff tour. Fathers includes now former members of Lords of Fuzz, Black Acid Devil, Cult of the Lost Cause and Native Daughters so its heavy music pedigree is respectable enough. But it’s debut, self-titled record, out in Fall 2017 forged a bit of a different musical identity for its members with music akin to the aggressive and thorny drive and dynamism of bands like Converge and Coalesce. Muscle Beach, especially its newer material, compresses a great amount of energy and movement into a small span of time and cuts out the inessential. In doing so, the trio’s songs defy easy genre designation and despite its relentless energy there is a grace and fluidity to music not really designed to possess either quality.

Friday | October 26, 2018

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Kamasi Washington, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Kamasi Washington w/Victory
When: Friday, 10.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Kamasi Washington is reaping the benefits of a lifetime of learning and honing his craft and bringing to the playing of saxophone and composing music a creativity that has some critics and fans placing him among the jazz legends of yesteryear. History will decide if Washington is worthy of such accolades but his body of work and his various collaborations in the worlds of jazz and hip-hop speaks for itself. He is among one of the true talents bridging various realms of music with equal aplomb. In that way he and bassist Thundercat have much in common as both have contributed to albums by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop producer and rapper Kendrick Lamar as well as releasing acclaimed and innovative albums in their own rights. In 2018, released both a full-length with Heaven and Earth and a companion EP The Choice. Difficult to assess Washington’s legacy at this point but this is a chance to witness his music live at a medium-sized venue either at The Ogden Theatre or tomorrow night in Boulder at The Boulder Theater.

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Sharone & The Wind, photo by KMiller Photography

Who: Sharone & The Wind’s Night of Terror 2 w/Shattered Halo, Married a Dead Man, Dead But Fancy, Rotten Reputation 
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ, Englewood
Why: As Sharone & The Wind have developed over the past two years as a band, it has also established itself as a theatrical live act. No holiday is more suited to the group’s dark, emotionally-charged, art metal than Halloween. For the second year running, the band has assembled friends and peers to share a set at Moe’s Original BBQ to ring in the holiday with what will surely be a set that will include props and go beyond a band merely getting on stage and rocking.

Who: 1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 1: Dragondeer Vs. Bowie w/Def Knock and The Milk Blossoms
When: Friday, 10.26, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: If the members of Dragondeer weren’t incredibly talented musicians they wouldn’t be able to play their own brand of psychedelic blues much less take on the musical identities of two bands whose music is part of the DNA of international rock music whether acknowledged or not. On Friday night, the group will play songs from the catalog of David Bowie, an artist whose musical corpus combined exquisite, thoughtful, pop music and the avant-garde in various proportions with little regard to strict genre conventions. Opening this first night is The Milk Blossoms, a band whose emotionally tender yet fierce pop songs show how you can seem to be writing from secret places but have the requisite personal bravery to bare the art made from there to the world.

Who: Bluebook EP release w/Shark Dreams and Midwife
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: It’s been a minute since Bluebook released anything. Julie Davis has been busy with other, equally fascinating projects and having a child, among other things. The new Bluebook material, part of which can be heard on the new EP The Astronaut’s Wife, was written with Jess Parsons and while it contains some of the familiar elements that have made Davis’ music interesting from very early on like her vivid, commanding voice and her use of a difficult to manage and master instrument like upright bass along with various loops and the sounds that Parsons brings to the project. There is a mysterious quality to the band’s presentation of the music these days too and that just gives the storytelling a bit of an atmospheric edge. Also on the bill is one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and organic soundscapers, Midwife.

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FIDLAR, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Fidlar w/Dilly Dally and Side Eyes
When: Friday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Fidlar could have just been another garage punk band except that Zac Carper and Elvis Kuehn met while working at a recording studio and thus had a better than average sense of what made recordings sound good and what kind of preparation a band might need to undertake in order to not waste a lot of time not getting what they want out of that process. Nevertheless, there is a freshness to its sound that has as much in common with 2010s indie pop as it does with post-Reatards garage punk—catchy tunes, a little loose around the edges, irreverent and self-deprecating. The group will release its new record Almost Free on January 25, 2019 but you’ll get to hear a good deal of it first on this tour.

Who: Rot Congress
When: Friday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Hot Congress was the promising indie rock label that, for a time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, galvanized a certain segment of the Denver music scene with releases, promotion, events featuring its artists and an eccentric yet striking aesthetic. The label hasn’t been active in years but it maintains its Halloween tradition of gathering local Denver bands associated with Hot Congress for a show called Rot Congress at which the bands dress up and have, on occasion, taken up humorous alternate names. Here is a schedule for this year’s event, all times p.m.: 9:30 Zealot, 10:15 Kissing Party, 11 The Interesting Times Gang, 11:45 The Jinjas.

Saturday | October 27, 2018

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Ian Sweet, photo by Kelsey Hart

Who: Ian Sweet w/Young Jesus
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ian Sweet is Jillian Medford’s vehicle for exploring the intersections between one’s own neuroses and her responsibilities to others, some of whom she has taken on a type of caretaker role. Or so she so poetically articulates on her 2018 sophomore record Crush Crusher. With luminous melodies, gentle and textured rhythms and lush soundscapes, Medford crafts songs that reflect a strength of character of necessity balanced against the crushing anxiety that develops when battling your own demons and making sure those under your care, formally or otherwise, don’t go neglected. It’s rock, it’s indie pop., it’s dreamy stuff but because of the subject matter and Medford’s imaginative songwriting it has a heft yet uplifting quality suggesting a complexity not heard enough in popular music. Also on the bill, Young Jesus whose what one might call indie prog songs recall late 90s math rock where that music mixed with 90s emo. A bit like Minus the Bear but more melancholy.

Who: 1st Annual Halloween Throwdown Night 2: Dragondeer Vs. The Dead w/Dog City Disco
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of Dragondeer’s Halloween show features the band taking on the challenging repertoire of the Grateful Dead. As pioneers of DIY, independent music having a viable existence and the soundtrack to a real moment of American counterculture, the Grateful Dead’s can be polarizing. But its blend of psychedelia, bluegrass and improvisational jazz has often been imitated by hundreds of bands with mixed results. But if you go and check out any one of the group’s early records without having some bias getting in the way, it’s interesting stuff unlike much of anything else going on at the time with truly masterful improvisational live performances captured on some bootlegs and its own official live releases, particularly Europe ’72. Will Dragondeer be up to the challenge and not be like so many wack wannabes in the jam band scene? Likely so given the level of talent involved.

Who: The Crüxshadows, Seraphim Shock, Radio Scarlet and DJ Mudwulf
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: The Crüxshadows are one of the very few bands that combine trance and dark wave that doesn’t immediately inspire a chuckle. Mainly because the band has found a way to make that sound good rather than the laughable EBM/Future Pop thing that plagued the late 90s and the 2000s. Joining the Florida band for this show are two Denver bands. Industrial rock/trashy vampire costume performance art band Seraphim Shock are legends in certain Goth circles in Denver. Since the mid-90s, the group has somehow made the schlocky-ness of industrial rock, pop metal and Gothic aesthetics as manifested in the popularity of vampire mythos in the 90s with the novels of Anne Rice and the RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, maybe even Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue novels, seem not so hokey or gloriously so. Seraphim Shock has been that band to synthesize all of it and make it highly entertaining for over two decades now. Radio Scarlett might be the only legit death rock band in the Mile High City. Even if it turns out it’s the only one, it’s at least good. Okay, there’s Grave Moss too and both are excellent bands.

Who: Cyclo-Sonic, The Gurkhas, Cyanidols and Gata Negra
When: Saturday, 10.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: Some of Denver punk’s elder, but not elderly, punk musicians who are still playing in respectable bands will take the stage at The Skylark tonight. Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of The Choosey Mothers, The Fluid, The Frantix and Rok Tots and they can still pull off a spirited performance. Cyanidols include a handful of Denver punk and indie rock veterans including former Tarmints and The Symptoms bassist/vocalist Sonya Decman and Chris Kieft and Oscar Pop who have played in too many notable bands to name going back to the 80s Denver punk underground. Gata Negra is Whitney Rehr’s bluesy punk/power pop band when she’s not also playing in I’m A Boy.

Sunday | October 28, 2018

 

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Herpes Hideaway, Haunted Sound Lab, Victoria Lundy
When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of Textures will feature a special encore presentation of Herpes Hideaway’s creepy diorama and puppet set to accompany his dark ambient music and usual witches’ costume. Appropriately enough Haunted Sound Lab will perform as well as Victoria Lundy who will grace the night with her haunting, classically-inspired Theremin and synth compositions. Maybe she’ll reprise parts of her Miss American Vampire release show.

Who: Insane Clown Posse w/Clownvis Presley, Dirty Rotten Rhymers, Swizzy J and Hex Rated (LSP)
When: Sunday, 10.28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Stampede
Why: Insane Clown Posse brings its dark carnival to Aurora, Colorado for a show at Stampede. The latter is a club that has in years past been known more as a home to country music. But its large dance floor and upper floor open to the performance space lends itself well to larger shows in general. No need to explain ICP but it’s live shows are highly entertaining with lots of over the top stage antics and a high level of surreal kitsch and fun even if you’re not into the music. Clownvis Presley is, yes, an Elvis tribute act with a clown version of Elvis providing the vocals and the name of the band. ICP hasn’t been to the Denver area for a long time despite the Mile High City being a place in America where it is most popular so maybe the guys have something special in store for this tour around Halloween.

Tuesday | October 30, 2018

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Sugar Candy Mountain, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Black Moth Super Rainbow w/The Stargazer Lilies and Air Credits
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Moth Super Rainbow amalgamated Tom Fec’s sound experiments with making the musical equivalent of collage art, giving it an even more organic and fuzzy around the edges, analog quality than simply processed sampling. As with other artists who mastered their own production style in a like-minded vein such as Boards of Canada, cLOUDED and J Dilla, Fec and BMSR created an otherworldly and transporting sound with a sense of innocence about it yet often profane and frank in content. Adopting stage names (Tobacco and Seven Fields of Aphelion, for instance), BMSR’s shows are often an immersive experience creating an emotional and imaginative zone for the night. The band’s latest full-length, 2018’s Panic Blooms, is an even further reach into abstraction as a means of conveying a direct link into the realms of imagination and emotion. BMSR has always been an alchemical blend of hip-hop, psychedelic electronic music and IDM but one grounded in a working class culture in middle America where a sense of one’s isolation breeds aspirational daydreaming and/or drug abuse as a means of escaping the dream shattering mundanity of everyday life. Where you can see on TV and in media a more glamorous life that seems out of reach of everyone you know and you look at your own life and think, “Is this it? Forever?” BMSR’s music honors that desperation and melancholy while making music suggesting other options and possibilities and finding the extraordinary even within your own psychic angst and disappointment.

Who: Sugar Candy Mountain, Ancient Elk and Palo Santo
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Sugar Candy Mountain’s hazy tropicalia and psych folk pop sounds like what a handful of their music videos look like—the soundtrack to a road trip across the American west in a future imagined by Jim Jarmusch. The band’s new record Do Right takes its songwriting beyond the languid, single note picking that is the specialty of bands nicking the Laurel Canyon inspired garage rock vibe for a kind of retrofuturist sound that might be compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three California’s trilogy, in particular 1988’s The Gold Coast. Nerdy science fiction comparison’s aside, Sugar Candy Mountain may on the surface sound like another pop psychedelia band but its imaginative songwriting and knack for capturing a modern sense of wanderlust and dissatisfaction without going dark is not just refreshing but extraordinary.

Who: Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe
When: Tuesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Amigo the Devil’s latest album, Everything is Fine, as in not, is like a collection of modern noir short stories with a darkly humorous bent. That it’s pretty much just Danny Kiranos and his acoustic guitar (with some very minimal percussion and piano on various songs) is even more impressive because it feels full and that anything more would take away from the stark beauty of the songwriting. There’s a song called “Cocaine and Abel,” another called “Hungover in Jonestown,” yet another called “I Hope Your Husband Dies”—all suggesting skullduggery and over-the-top scenes. But there’s a tenderness and sensitivity there too, a nuance of emotion that hits you unexpectedly like the quieter moments in a Cormac McCarthy novel. A great set of music for Halloween week but also enjoyable beyond any seasonal appeal because Kiranos’ music comes from the heart and not a sense of lurid kitsch.

Wednesday | October 31, 2018

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Spirit Award, photo by Brenna Nickels

Who: Itchy-O Hallowmass w.Echo Beds
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Itchy-O recently released its best album to date with Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo. It doesn’t capture the live show because no recording could but as a listening experience it takes you into realms of experience that are an analogue and a companion to the live show that is enjoyable on its own. If you can’t witness the spectacle of a thirty plus member band dressed up as operatives of an inter-dimensional band of mystics and penitents of a an ethos dedicated to human liberation and artistic exploration through group performance art for yourself the record is plenty rewarding on its own. But if you can, make it to one of the band’s infrequent shows and take in its controlled chaos on its terms. For this show the group will share the stage with Echo Beds, the Denver industrial punk band whose own new album, Buried Language, is a leap forward for the band’s presentation in the recorded format. Live, with the oil drum and vocal caterwaul, electronic percussion and cutting guitar work, Echo Beds is as thrilling and forbidding as its recordings suggest and a perfect parallel artist for the way the records translate on the part of Itchy-O.

Who: Amigo the Devil w/Harley Poe
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: For Amigo the Devil, see above for 10/30/18.

Who: Danzig 30 Year Anniversary w/Venom Inc., Power Trip and Mutoid Man
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Danzig will perform cuts from across his solo career. Sometimes the music borders on corny but really melodramatic in the best sense but always dark and honest about that side of Danzig’s psyche. On other tours the band plays the hits but for this one the group will dig a little deeper into the catalog.

Who: Colfax Speed Queen, Ned Garthe Explosion, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Spirit Award
When: Wednesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Spirit Award’s new album Muted Crowd is a good one for the Halloween holiday considering the song “Supreme Truth” is about Japan’s terror cult Aum Shinrikyo and “Witching Hour” is based on singer/guitarist Daniel Lyon’s encounters with the paranormal in a house in Seattle. But the music isn’t spooky so much as dense with energized atmospheres, echoing vocals and urgent rhythms. The Seattle-based trio will be joined by three of Denver’s own off beat rock and roll bands with Colfax Speed Queen’s post-psych garage, Ned Garthe Explosion’s humorous yet intense and colorful take on psychedelic rock and Vic N’ The Narwhals time traveling southern California via the American southwest presentation of R&B-inflected surf rock.

Best Shows in Denver 4/26/18 – 5/2/18

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Parquet Courts performs Sunday, April 29, 2018 at The Gothic Theatre. Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Thursday | April 26, 2018

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tUnE-yArDs circa March 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: tUnE-yArDs w/My Brightest Diamond
When: Thursday, 04.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: When tUnE-yArDs toured in the wake of the release of the 2009 album Bird-Brains, Merrill Garbus’ soulful singing amid what seemed like a raw combination of loops, percussion and Nate Brenner’s liquid bass lines seemed like something right out of that period’s vibrant bedroom recorder world and so idiosyncratic yet accessible that the duo connected with people that wanted to see something different that didn’t fit in immediately with something we’ve all seen hundreds of times already. The band’s unconventional pop songs seemingly drawing from several musical traditions ended up garnering a wide audience after the release of the 2011 album Whokill. In 2018 the band issued I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, an album on which Garbus, according to an interview with Vox, challenges her own white privilege and other privileges as an artist that has been directly inspired by music made people who didn’t enjoy a similarly privileged existence. Whatever one thinks of such gestures and self-examination and confession, as usual, the tUnE-yArDs record is still refreshingly out of step with a whole swath of popular music except rather than the lo-fi aesthetic of old, the new album has a larger, fuller sound. And Garbus’ words aren’t eyeroll-worthy examples of self-hate and self-flagellation—they’re pointed and self-critical but not cruel.

Who: Glasss Presents: Eraserhead Fuckers w/prettyinpink w/roaddawg, VC Hearts and Shamwow
When: Thursday, 04.26, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: If you’ve been wondering where the weirdo hip-hop has been hiding (it hasn’t been hiding), this would be a great show to check out some of the weirdest. Eraserhead Fuckers is a noise-hip-hop project that somehow lives up to the name with his confrontational performance style and brutal beats. Prettyinpink and roaddawg are doing a collaborative set and their vibe is something in the vein of Earl Sweatshirt or Vince Staples—moody, synth heavy and a little on the gritty side with the words.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Surf Mom
When: Thursday, 04.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The Speakeasy Series edition for this week includes Princess Dewclaw, a band that combines melodic synth compositions with punk rock stridency and a clever dismantling of patriarchal tropes. Church Fire is a duo steeped in noise, electronic dance music, fiery performances and lyrics that feel like a direct line to a celebratory outage and melancholic anthems of healing through honoring the hurting. Surf Mom should probably change its name because it’s beyond surf at this point. Except for the fact that it’s a great band name. The two-piece uses a thorny pop format to comment on social issues and personal struggles in a way that comes off as punk but isn’t stuck with the musical baggage of the same.

Friday | April 27, 2018

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Who: Vulfpeck, Kamasi Washington and Knower
When: Friday, 04.27, 6 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Despite the fact that Vulfpeck is essentially trying to channel a 1970s and 1980s live concert television broadcast program format in presenting its music, and drawing upon that era for musical inspiration as well, even its session-musician-worthy chops don’t diminish its ear for lively and emotionally engaging funk. A bit like Average White Band but no horns, better low end and more unconventional chord progressions. Sharing the bill is one of modern jazz’s bright stars, Kamasi Washington. Perhaps known to many people as a musician and arranger on albums by Pulitzer Prize winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar (including To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN.), Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Run the Jewels, Washington’s own output is impressive in its own right. His 2015 album The Epic had a classic sensibility without sounding like a throwback. Rather, Washington’s emotionally expressive and musically adept compositions articulate a yearning quality, a sense of resignation to reality and the blue feeling that accompanies all such realizations, a harboring of hope and dreams of a better future glimpsed winking in the distance. It was simply a musically ambitious and expansive jazz album but one that had the accessibility of a should-have-been collaboration between Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Lalo Schifrin. In 2018, Washington will release his new album, Heaven and Earth.

What: LEAF (Lafayette Electronic Arts Festival)
When: Friday, 04.27 and Saturday 4.28
Where: Center for Musical Arts
Why: This multi-media festival is all ages and free and runs through the weekend with performances, art demonstrations and film. For more information, you can read our interview with festival curator Dave Fodel here.

Who: Ghost Tapes, The Milk Blossoms, Kdubbs
When: Friday, 04.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghost Tapes has been honing its dusky downtempo jazz/hip-hop/soul sound for a few years around town at house shows, DIY spaces, dive bars and smaller clubs. But even early on the band had a surprising level of sophistication in its musicianship and performance. Its 2017 self-titled album demonstrated hints of Baduizm period Erykah Badu in the poetic wordplay imbued with a thoughtfulness and wisdom that music like that doesn’t get nearly enough credit with possessing. Fitting that Ghost Tapes is sharing the stage with The Milk Blossoms, a band that incorporates elements of hip-hop, indie pop, folk and R&B into its overall sound while also seeming so idiosyncratic to the point of almost being outsider music if not for the band’s command of classic songcraft. The Milk Blossoms’ tender yet emotionally rich and affecting songs make the band pretty much impossible to forget.

Who: Neil Haverstick
When: Friday, 04.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Tuft Theater at Swallow Hill
Why: Colorado’s dean of microtonal guitar, Neil Haverstick, is playing a rare show at Swallow Hill. Haverstick is adept at so many musical styles it’s difficult to say what his focus will be this time out but no matter if it’s avant-garde, classical, blues, jazz or whatever seems to interest Haverstick the most at the moment, it’ll be a worthwhile show to attend.

Who: Commander Cody w/Howlin’ Goatz
When: Friday, 04.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Caribou Room, Nederland
Why: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and in its early incarnations operating at a time when Ann Arbor and Detroit were experiencing a kind of golden age of music. Between Motown, Alice Cooper, MC5, Stooges and other notables of the time, that part of the country was the place of origin and home to some of the most important music of the era. It would be an exaggeration to say that Commander Cody and his country rock band was as long term impactful as the aforementioned. But it did yield a couple of novelty hits in its career that are well-remembered by anyone that heard them. “Hot Rod Lincoln” from the band’s 1971 debut album Lost in the Ozone was in the US Top 10 and its 1981 hit “2 Triple Cheese (Side Order of Fries)” from the 1980 album Lose It Tonight had a music video that reached anyone that saw Turkey Television on the Nickelodeon network in the early 80s. There’s a good chance Commander Cody will play both even without His Lost Planet Airmen among a choice selection of his extensive and prolific back catalog.

Saturday | April 28, 2018

 

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Animal / object circa December 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: FoCoMX pick: Animal / object (Kurt Bauer and Karen Sheridan)
When: Saturday, 04.28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Dome
Why: FoCoMX is an annual music festival held in Fort Collins that mostly showcases Colorado-based acts along the front range from a broad spectrum of musical styles. Perhaps not booked at enough local music festivals is Animal / object. The latter is Denver’s premiere spontaneous composition band. Lead by Kurt Bauer formerly of 1980s post-punk band Susan and God, the group has included sculptor/painter Steven Gordon (who will not be performing this particular show), winds player Paul Mimlitsch, novelist Gordon Pryor, experimental electronic musician/graphic designer David Britton, prolific outsider musician Chris Culhane of Lords of Howling and Violent Femmes frontman/guitarist Gordon Gano. For this show, Bauer will perform with Karen Sheridan, formerly of Denver death rock/punk band Your Funeral and atmospheric noise/industrial project Corpses As Bedmates. Always a different show, always interesting and rewarding.

Who: Of Feather and Bone w/Suffering Hour, Wayfarer and Many Blessings
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Of Feather and Bone’s new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion should solidify the band’s reputation as one of the most interesting and innovative grindcore bands going today. Yes, the sonic brutality is there, the relentless pace and the animalistic vocals. But there is a hauntedness, a spookiness to much of the group’s music. Like the darkness is coming from a personal place. Yes, the disgust with human civilization is abstracted a bit through fantastical song titles and the flood of sounds but its visceral and real. Of Feather and Bone celebrates the release of the album with fellow purveyors of extreme, heavy sounds Suffering Hour and Wayfarer. Many Blessings isn’t a grind band per se even though Ethan McCarthy is in one of the heaviest bands in the world in Primitive Man. Many Blessings is an atmospheric noise project with its sound generation based in tools similar to those McCarthy employs with his more well-known projects. But it’s just as heavy as anything else on the bill.

Who: Of Montreal w/Locate S, 1
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Of Montreal is an older band but it’s basically like the psychedelic pop equivalent of Ty Segall in some ways in terms of its prolific and diverse output. And that that prolific stream of work is actually worth exploring. For the 2018 album White is Relic/Irrealis Mood, band leader Kevin Barnes dispensed with the old band format approach to recording and composing so that the record sounds like something that might have been crafted in a virtual environment with Barnes having access to some futuristic, immersive form the the internet in which he can take in/experience knowledge in a way that is more and deeper than mere 3D. Musically it sounds like an indie pop Howard Jones album with touches of glam rock. Most Of Montreal shows are wonderfully colorful and weird and a real experience and with the material for the new album, Barnes and company probably have something spectacular and unexpected for the live show.

Who: Blockhead w/MIDIcinal, Big J. Beats, Lost Glory
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Tony Simon aka Blockhead is a DJ and record producer whose name is often associated with production he’s done for Aesop Rock. His music separate from production work he does for other artists tends toward an imaginative downtempo approach like a radio station for an ultra hip radio station in a hidden part of a city in a weird multiple user video game. Any of his albums will do, whether it’s 2007’s Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book or 2017’s Funeral Balloons, for a trip into a brighter, more chill, yet not soporific, universe.

Who: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever w/Turvy Organ and Serpentfoot
When: Saturday, 04.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever from Melbourne, Australia was a band that you could either like or find meh based on your feeling toward modern indie rock. Its post-surf post-punk jangle rock, at least through the 2017 album The French Press, was reminiscent of The War On Drugs in that you could hear the influence of 80s power pop and maybe even Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. And there seemed to be so much more emotional depth to the songwriting than some you’d get out of some kind of half-baked party rock band. In that way Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has much more in common with Beach Slang than so many of the neo-pop-punk bands. And hey, sometimes the most interesting period in a band’s life is when it’s still trying to figure out its own voice. On its forthcoming Hope Downs the group strikes a New Romantics tone on the Talking Straight single and in moments has a vibe akin to that of Soft Boys or even solo Robyn Hitchcock.

Sunday | April 29, 2018

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Keldari Station circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Hymen, Keldari Station and Shawn Mlekush
When: Sunday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Shawn Mlekush will perform a set of ambient improv for this show. But he’s known around certain Denver circles as a non-conventional composer of electronic music and his not very active band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory fit in with the noise scene even if it was more in the realm of avant-garde electronic music. Keldari Station is an unlikely yet vital combination of dub, glam rock, synth pop and post-punk.

Who: Parquet Courts w/The Teeth of the Hydra
When: Sunday, 04.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: It would be facile to say Parquet Courts is like a new version of Pavement. Because the bands aren’t much alike except for a fearless and creatively musical use of atonality in guitar and vocals, a nearly reckless employment of imprecision in crafting interlocking guitar melodies and a nearly unpredictable high energy and tripping, hanging moments. Like machines on the brink of collapse trying desperately to cross a bridge on the verge of the same. In both cases the result has been some of the most interesting and eclectic rock music of their time. On May 18, 2018 Parquet Courts will release Wide Awake! So chances are you’ll get to see some of the new album live before it’s out.

Monday | April 30, 2018

IAMX ISTANBUL LIVE

Who: IAMX
When: Monday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: When Chris Corner went solo following the dissolution of his well-known trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps in 2004, he was able to not only push his music in a more experimental direction but he was able to fully incorporate the sonic and visual aesthetic of his art into a unified multi-media and theatrical presentation not limited by any preconception of musical genre in which he’d need to fit his music. The resulting musical output has been eclectic but consistent with Corner’s desire to create a theatrical and immersive musical experience. The latest IAMX album is 2018’s Alive In New Light, coming on the heels of the September 2017 album Unfall.

Who: God Save the Queens: Queer Punk Night at Hi-Dive hosted by Noveli and DJ Junkyard
When: Monday, 04.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The title of the event says it all. So you’ll probably hear a little Bikini Kill, Pansy Division, Green Day, Crass, Los Crudos, Big Boys and a whole lot more great queer punk on a sound system that is more robust than the one you have at home.

Who: Morbid Angel w/Dreaming Dead and Hate Storm Annihilation
When: Monday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Morbid Angel was one of the foundational bands of death metal. Based in Tampa, Florida and putting to tape most of its iconic recordings, including its influential 1989 debut full-length Altars of Madness, at Morrisound Recording? Founded the same year, 1983, as Death from Orlando, Possessed from San Francisco and Necrophagia from Wellsville, Ohio? Seems like some dark cosmic energy that Death metal’s early big hitters emerged so close together. Trey Azagthoth’s brutal yet psychedelic guitar sound has been the constant of the band from the beginning but this time around later-era singer Steve Tucker has returned and provided vocals on the 2017 album Kingdoms Disdained. Live there actually is a spooky quality to the music and both Tucker and former singer David Vincent provided a sepulchral vocal style that could be silly but never Cookie Monster enough to not find somewhat discomforting and perfectly suited to the music.

Tuesday | May 1, 2018

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Oko Tygra circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gus Dapperton w/Oko Tygra
When: Tuesday, 05.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Gus Dapperton isn’t breaking and new ground with his pop songs. Post-surf rock jangle guitar? Jazz-lite rhythms? Bright, melodic synth flourishes? De rigueur with modern indie rock. But something about how he pulls it all together with his band has a simple charm that sets it apart as does Gus Dapperton’s off the cuff yet confident stage banter. Opening the show is Denver dream pop/post-punk band Oko Tygra. Joshua Novak’s command of mood and the warmth of his vocal delivery gives music that can sometimes be beautifully icy a human core that elevates the mood. Also, in the last two or three years the band has pared back and simplified its sonic signature making for more spacious and emotionally stirring songs.

Wednesday | May 2, 2018

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Who: Dessa w/Monakr
When: Wednesday, 05.02, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Though not a founder of influential hip-hop collective Doomtree Dessa has been an integral part of that crew for years. She is after all CEO of Doomtree these days. But as a solo artist she is able to demonstrate her gift for producing beats and a deft and creative use of words shifting between singing, rapping and spoken word. There is a confidence and fluidity to her delivery that bring to her evocative storytelling a vivid quality as though she’s conceived of her albums as a films she’s directing and in which she’s acting. Her new album, 2018’s Chime, her first in five years, has spare titles but inside each track her words are incisive and impactful and the beats cinematic.

Who: Open to the Hound, The Lacuna Brotherhood and Room 204
When: Wednesday, 04.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Open to the Hound sounds like the band all got together and went off to a cabin in the mountains to write their songs and had plenty of time to be away from the haze of civilization and touched by starlight and moss. Sometimes the results are trippy, fuzzy grunge rock, other times, introspective and minimal freak folk/indie pop campfire compositions. They even have some ambient-rock-downtempo songs that some musically unsophisticated people might call “shoegaze.” The trio lists The Microphones as an influence and the part-rock-song-part-sound-collage aesthetic of some of the band’s music bears this out in a way that is refreshingly not so obvious.