What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
Who:Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.
Who:Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.
Friday | December 28, 2018
Who:Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.
Who:Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m. Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.
Saturday | December 29, 2018
Who:Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.
Who:Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.
Who:Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.
Who:Itchy-O w/PPL MVR When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m. Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.
Sunday | December 30, 2018
Who:Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.
Who:Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.
Who:The Beach Boys When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.
Who:Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.
Who:cindygod EP release When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.
Monday | December 31, 2018
Who:Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.
Who:Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.
Who:Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.
Who:Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?
What:Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: The Bakery Why: This is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production spans six performances starting Friday and Saturday evening of February 23 and 24 with a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sundays. On February 23, the opening band is Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia. February 24 has indie pop group The Green Typewriters on board. March 2 will include a performance from Ersatz Robots and the final evening show will have a surprise guest on March 3.
Who:The Kinky Fingers album release w/Don Chicharron and Godchild When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m. Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax Why: The Kinky Fingers have always been a band that made a virtue of simple, clean melodies. At a time when it seemed there was entire too much surf rock and neo-psychedelic rock, The Kinky Fingers shined with the strength of its songwriting. With its new album, Garbage Plate, the band has expanded its sound and boosted its emotional range. The album has been a long time coming. Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Rochester, New York, Garbage Plate is a surprisingly thoughtful set of songs that sound like party anthems. Regarding the meaning of the album title, the band says “[a] Garbage Plate is a plate of fried potatoes, baked beans, hot dogs, onions, mustard, and a chili-like meat sauce. Intense. As the name suggests, the music rings through so many genres, textures and tastes it feels a perfect fit for the deteriorating American dream, which once tasted so sweet and now feels more like a bellyache.” Expect the usual sharply observant songs about the vicissitudes of life with some poignant, and creatively rendered, social commentary mixed in. The Kinky Fingers will also play at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho on Friday, March 23 at Ha Penny at 11:20 p.m.
Who:Slow Caves 7” release w/Gleemer and Panther Martin When: Friday, 02.23, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: On its new 7”, Fort Collins’ Slow Caves seems to have evolved well beyond the more languid pace and sound of its earlier pop songs. “Poser” has some of the structure and dynamics of the band’s surf rock leanings but there is more grit and drive to its winningly polished melodies. Joining Slow Caves for the occasion of releasing its new record are noisy math rockers Gleemer and Panther Martin, a band that may have started out in the realm of garage and psych rock but its intricate yet uncluttered musicianship reveals a knack for writing songs of often surprising emotional complexity.
Who:Necropanther CD release w/The Munsens, and Abrams When: Saturday, 02.24, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Denver death thrashers Necropanther are releasing a new album tonight with Eyes Of Blue Light. Imagine what it would sound like if a melodic death metal band Gothenburg style wrote a Dune-themed record inspired in part by Municipal Waste and Thrash Zone-period D.R.I.. Well, Necropanther recorded the album in Denver but got it mastered in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström who has put his sonic fingerprints on the broad spectrum of that city’s melodic death metal scene. Also on stage this night are sludgy doom-sters The Munsens and the equally menacing Abrams whose own version of sludge/doom is energetically dynamic and otherworldly in the vein of bands like Neurosis and Isis.
What:Textures featuring Cpt. Howdy, Brother Saturn, MYTHirst When: Sunday, 02.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This is the latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase. This time the return of heavy synth duo (trio), Cpt. Howdy, the super chill, abstract ambient of Drew Miller (of Chromadrift) as Brother Saturn (he calls it a shoegaze band and yeah, if you’re thinking more like Seefeel rather than the more rock-oriented stuff) and MYTHist’s electro-acoustic take on IDM.
Monday | February 26, 2018
What:Decibel Magazine Tour: Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and Khemmis When: Monday, 02.26, 6 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: Decibel Magazine, one of the major magazines that focuses on metal and heavy music in general, has been on this tour for several years now and this time out the even is headlined by Norway’s Enslaved. The band has always had melodic elements to its brutally majestic sound. But with it’s 2017 album E, the group seems to have written the music with a cinematic presentation in mind like they were composing a soundtrack for the next Thor movie. In a similar vein of invoking indigenous spirits and associated imagery in the music are the opening bands on this leg of the tour. Denver’s Khemmis is often described as a doom band but its songs far more melodic than such designations suggest. The hanging chords and sludgy flourishes are there but so is an apparent dedication to fairly traditional songcraft giving the band an appeal beyond what one might assume to be its audience. Myrkur, from Denmark, is the black metal project of Amalie Bruun. Her expansive, lush songs bring together the gritty and the sublime and transcendent matched by her seemingly effortless transition between. Mareidt, the project’s 2017 release, included a guest vocal from the like-minded Chelsea Wolfe on the track “Funeral.” Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington all but retired from any active touring several years back so this is a rare chance to catch the band’s Cascadian black metal in Denver. The group performed in Colorado Springs in October 2017 in the wake of the release of its most recent album, 2017’s Thrice Woven. A WITTR show is fairly tribal in presentation with visuals invoking meeting at a communal fire to share stories and to participate in a collective ritual and the music is a manifestation of that spirit.
Who:Palm w/Spirit of the Beehive and Plague Survivor When: Monday, 02.26, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Palm was originally from Philadelphia but calls New York City it’s home base these days. It’s flavor of neo-math rock is less focused on actual technique and more on what you can do with technique and dynamics if you inject some imagination into the playing and writing. If you’re a fan of groups like US Weekly, Laddio Bolocko, Don Caballero and A Minor Forest you’ll probably appreciate what Palm is doing. Its new album, 2018’s Rock Island, expands on the band’s previous, beautifully claustrophobic structures without losing its masterful ability to create tension and release at the perfect moments.
Who:Haunted Summer w/Tyto Alba, Ghostpulse and Magic Cyclops When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Haunted Summer could be broadbrushed as a post-chillwave dream pop project reminiscent of Devotion-period Beach House because its entrancing melodies are possessed of a similarly gorgeous emotional afterglow. But its Robin-Guthrie-circa-Mysterious-Skin-soundtrack guitar textures and drifty dynamics akin to those of Former Selves or Candy Claws. Whatever went into inspiring the band’s sound, it’s excellent 2017 album, Spirit Guides has a warmth and intimacy that propels the songs into having an immediacy that isn’t always the purvey of bands attempting a similar style of music. Tyto Alba, like Haunted Summer, is a band that is great at working in the realm of the edges of your memory to invoke something that isn’t nostalgia but has an emotional resonance that stimulates the feelings that normally coalesce into comforting reverie.
Who:Eraserhead Fuckers, Juniordeer, Ultraviolet, Morlox and Brkn Jwbne Tape Manipulator When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Just reading the list of band names should give you some idea of the strangeness you’re in for if you make it to this show. Morlox should be a well-known artist in Denver because his influence on the local industrial and noise scene is undeniable but he has also had an impact on experimental pop band Church Fire and their facility in weaving together industrial music and hip-hop production ideas into their own songwriting. He rarely performs live so if that’s your thing, be there. Also, Eraserhead Fuckers is technically hip-hop but so confrontational, abrasive and surreal that most hip-hop fans aren’t going to be into it unless maybe they didn’t have a difficult time getting into something like Death Grips, .clipping, Earl Sweatshirt or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Tuesday | February 27, 2018
Who:Talib Kweli w/Niko Is, DJ Spintelect and Time When: Tuesday, 02.27, 8:30 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: Talib Kweli Greene would have secured his place in hip-hop history with Black Star, his collaborative project with Mos Def. But Kweli’s talent, intellect and curiosity has brought him to various efforts as a rapper, producer and activist. Rather than make more than a brief list of the people he’s worked with like Dave Chappelle, Kanye West and Dead Prez, it would be more worthwhile to note how Kweli’s albums have long been filled with thoughtful and creative social critiques alongside solid beats and music so that his albums never come off feeling didactic or preachy even as he minces no words—because his stories and words are also not short on humanity. Kweli can be pointed but he clearly takes in the bigger picture beyond any topical content. Along on the tour is Niko Is, a likeminded artist whose own imaginative wordplay sketches vivid images of aspirational daydreams and everyday life rendered into poetry. Opening the show is Denver’s Time, a rapper whose literary lyrics display a gift for surreal stories and political analysis grounded in his own experiences growing up in “the nutty.” Meaning North Denver, of course. Sometime in 2018 it’s anticipated that we’ll see a new album from Calm., Time’s hip-hop duo with longtime collaborator, the producer Awareness.
Wednesday | February 28, 2018
Who:Why? w/The Florist When: Wednesday, 02.28, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Yoni Wolf aka Why? was once in influential, experimental hip hop group Clouddead but when that outfit split in 2004 he formed an indie rock band called Why? with his brother Josiah and friends. And yet calling Why? indie rock is a bit imprecise because the band is far more experimental with its use of sound, the poetry of its lyrics and the the visual presentation of the music as well. At times Why? can be a multimedia experience with interaction between performers and video as well as making a theater sized show seem like something more suited to a stadium. Whatever the experience of the show might be it’s something the group has evolved for years and rooted in a music that is pushing and challenging the kind of complacency of being so in love with one’s established sound by making music that can never rest easy in a staid formula. The latest Why? record, 2017’s Moh Lhean, is typically impossible to adequately characterize and yet has all the unique wordplay and imagery that has made Why? a consistently interesting project from the beginning.
Who:Rachael Yamagata w/Hemming When: Tuesday, 02.27, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Rachael Yamagata has been at her solo career since 2001. Likely often broadbrushed as a singer-songwriter, Yamagata’s music transcends stereotypes that have crept up about singer-songwriter artists even though, obviously, artists like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and plenty of others are good examples of singer-writers. Like Ray LaMontagne (with whom Yamagata has worked) and Greg Laswell, Yamagata writes songs about life that provides a unique insight and illumination into subjects well-worn by artists since time immemorial. Yamagata’s voice is calming yet not short on evoking peak emotional moments with a gift for articulating complexity of feeling. Her music, richly detailed and textured, provide the perfect backdrop to her honest storytelling. Her 2016 album Tightrope Walker in particular minced few words about life challenges but did so in a lushly poetic fashion.