Best Shows in Denver 03/29/18 – 04/04/18

Alphabets_Aug14_2010_TomMurphy_crop_web
Colin Ward as Alphabets circa 2010. Raptor Jazz, a celebration of Ward and his legacy at The Black Box on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | March 29, 2018

 

TheMilkBlossoms_Jun24_2017_TomMurphy_web
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.

Who: DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell
When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.

Who: Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.

Friday | March 30, 2018

 

ItsJustBugs_Oct17_2017_TomMurphy_web
It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Monocle Band & The Dress Downs
When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder
Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.

Who: Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.

Who: Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty
When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.

Saturday | March 31, 2018

Chrome_Sep23_2008_TomMurphy_web
Chrome circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chrome w/EchoBeds and Phallic Meditation
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Check out our write-up on Chrome and interview with Helios Creed for some reasons to go to this show.

 

What: Raptor Jazz a Ceremony of Life for Colin Ward/Fundraiser feat. Docile Rottweiler, French Kettle Station, UR Presents Acid Rain (live), Sugarsplat 2.0, Shaman Fight Club, AcidBat, Kid Mask, Toucan, visuals by Orchidz3ro and Jak Turbo
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Colin Ward left an indelible imprint on Denver’s DIY art and music world during his short life before he died at the end of January 2018. This event is a celebration of his life and influence performed by many of those closest to him and a fundraiser for his memorial fund to preserve his art and music going into the future.

Monday | April 2, 2018

Herse_Aug16_2016_TomMurphy_web
Herse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard
When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.

Tuesday | April 3, 2018

PaleWaves_DannyNorth_web
Pale Waves, photo by Danny North

Who: Pale Waves w/Inheaven
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.

Who: A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.

Wednesday | April 4, 2018

BoyHarsher_May9_2017_TomMurphy_web
Boy Harsher, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight
When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain II on May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 12/7/17 – 12/13/17

Atmosphere
Atmosphere performs across Colorado in December. Photo by Dan Monick

Thursday: December 7, 2017

Who: Atmosphere w/Musab + Ink Well (Mink), deM atlaS, The Lioness and DJ Keezy
When: Thursday, 12.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Though Atmosphere is all but a mainstream hip-hop act these days, Slug and Ant had their roots in underground hip-hop in the 90s. As cofounders of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the influential Minneapolis hip-hop imprint, Slug and Ant participated in that creatively rich and collaborative environment nationally that included the Mush Records and Anticon Records imprints and Slug’s participation in Deep Puddle Dynamics, the alternative hip-hop supergroup that also included Sole, Doeseone, Alias and Jel of Anticon. But Atmosphere slowly started to enjoy greater levels of commercial success after the 90s while still remaining an innovative and interesting project. By the time of 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, Atmosphere worked with Tom Waits on “The Waitress.” Each of Atmosphere’s subsequent albums have charted respectably on the Billboard charts. But none of that would matter a bit if the music wasn’t worthwhile. On 2017’s Fishing Blues, Slug has returned to the deeply introspective delivery style that made his early work so compelling. Except the naivete is gone but the need to express his truth from the perspective of an older person who doesn’t find some of the bravado of his youth so charming and who finds the desperation to be oh-so-clever boring. Atmosphere today doesn’t lack for the energy for which it’s become known but it is more sharply channeled. Atmosphere is performing numerous shows throughout Colorado over the next ten days or so, the front range shows shows, in addition to the Thursday, December 7 date in Denver include shows on Saturday, December 9 at The Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, December 10 again at Ogden Theatre in Denver, December 12 at Black Sheep in Colorado Springs and December 13 at Boulder Theater in Boulder.

Friday: December 8, 2017

Ian Cook
Ian Cook circa 2013, phot by Tom Murphy

Who: Ian Cooke The Flight I Flew album release show and Going Away Party
When: Friday, 12.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ian Cooke is moving to South Carolina in 2018 to be with his partner of the last handful of years. And when you listen to his 2017 album The Flight I Flew, you can tell he went through an extended period of emotional confusion and turmoil ultimately coming to a place where his heart and and head are in alignment and his creative music given a focus that maybe it hadn’t had in such a short span of time that it took to assemble the new record. You can hear in the album’s songs the epiphanies, the self-realizations, the accepting of forgiveness that takes real work on the part of both people, and the commitment to personal accountability that you don’t hear in a lot of pop music even when it is as thoughtful and ambitious as the type Cooke has written his entire career. Friday’s show will be the full band spanning Cooke’s catalog while Saturday’s show will focus on Cooke’s quieter songs in a solo format. Either way, here’s your chance to see one of Denver’s truly greatest songwriters perform before you only get to see him maybe once a year.

Who: Death in Space, Shawn Mlekush and Herpes Hideaway
When: Friday, 12.08, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked on Colfax
Why: Aleeya Wilson is a Girls Rock Denver alumna who was probably a bit different from her peers as she used her guitar to make noise and ambient music rather than whatever popular musical style was favored among teens of that time. As a musician and writer, Wilson has tended toward conceptual work with a visceral quality making few if any concessions to mainstream accessibility. Supposedly this is one of her last noise shows in Denver though she’ll probably do some more while in grad school out of state. Shawn Mlekush is one of the synth players in experimental electronic band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory. No, not making that up. So his set will be interesting. And of course there’s the dark ambient of Herpes Hideaway. That entity is the solo project of Patrick Urn whose contributions to industrial band In Ether, the production on some Church Fire material and his various noise, hip-hop and electro efforts over the years may not be widely known but in the underground Denver experimental scene, widely respected. Herpes Hideaway finds Urn adopting the character of a witch-like being from another dimension evoking the fears and pains of humanity and purging them from the collective unconscious. Maybe not but that’s the vibe of the live show.

Sunday: December 10, 2017

Unsane
Unsane, photo by Dan Joerigh

Who: Unsane w/Plaque Marks and Pueblo Escobar
When: Sunday, 12.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Unsane crawled out of the 80s stained by the crushing, avant-garde noise rock of Swans, the organic-mystical industrial of Einsturzende Neubauten and perhaps the punishingly grinding transcendence of Flipper. So much so that the band has been often mistaken for a metal band, though that influence is probably there too through the more early doom and thrash end of that music. These days Unsane’s closest musical cousins are probably bands like Eye Hate God and the current incarnation of Neurosis. Its songs sounding like a Rob Zombie movie feels to watch in their finest moments—harrowing, unblinking in its depiction of the horrors humankind inflicts on itself, all awash in heightened emotions. Philadelphia’s Plaque Marks includes members of Creepoid, Ecstatic Vision and Fight Champ so it’s noisy post-hardcore-ish sound is beautifully disorienting. Like if Butthole Surfers had somehow emerged after the 31G imprint bands and modern psychedelic doom had their impact and its members decided they needed to push beyond their immediate influences. Pueblo Escobar is a Denver-based, metallic post-hardcore band that actually lives up to a name like that with dark, edgy songs played with an exuberant sense of fun.

Who: Ultrametal Presents: The Last King of Poland (10) w/John Gross (11), Meme Girls (11:30), Killd By (9:30), Birth (10:30), Ghost House (8:30), French Kettle Station (8) and Blank Human (9)
When: Sunday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Noise tends not to get much stage time outside of DIY venues and Mutiny so this noise showcase at Syntax, a venue that often has a more open booking policy than most clubs, is a welcome change of setting for a show like this. It’s a broad spectrum of noise and not a whole lot in the way of the harsher side. John Gross of Page 27 is playing a rare solo set. Killd By will make the kind of hyperkinetic dance music that only Colin Ward could make in his manipulation of self-created samples inside his beats. Birth is as much performance art as weirdo breakcore. French Kettle Station will likely be his usual energetic post-punk/synthwave delivered with a visceral energy. Blank Human, a noisy kind of ambient. Touring through from Chicago is Last King of Poland who will bring his beat-driven ambient noise tracks. Set times indicated above in parentheses.

Monday: December 11, 2017

Hunter Dragon
Hunter Dragon circa February 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Hunter Dragon birthday/going away party w/Lazarus Horse and Midwife
When: Monday, 12.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hunter Adams pushed in many different musical directions when he moved to Denver in the mid-2000s from St. Louis. You could consider some of what he did in the indie pop vein, but he also made experimental synth music that bordered on the ambient. His restless imagination wouldn’t let him settle for anything rote so some of his later music was a completely unique sort of electronic dance pop music but infused with an edgy emotional honesty that you pretty much never hear in that sort of music. Adams is a true original with a rich imagination that he expresses with his music eloquently and vividly. Now Adams is moving away from Denver yet again and celebrating the occasion, along with his birthday, with Lazarus Horse and avant-folk artist Midwife. With Madeline Johnston of the latter, Adams was involved in Tiny Amp Tapes so hopefully he can still have some involvement with imprint from afar.

Tuesday: December 12, 2017

Male Blonding
Male Blonding, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Panther Martin w/Couches, Male Blonding and Godchild
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Panther Martin, the Denver-based indie rock band, has never suffered from a lack of strong songwriting but it’s recent Drats EP finds the band pushing past its obvious influences (The Strokes, maybe some Pavement in there as well as other tuneful purveyors of tastefully fuzzy tone). Couches from San Francisco seems to be coming from a similar place musically but more punk, more from the House of Reatard. Male Blonding may have the greatest rhythm section in Denver indie rock but one that plays to the band’s richly emotive songwriting lead in part by Noah Simons’ commanding yet melancholic vocals.

Who: Hott Mt w/déCollage and Moon Magnet DJ set lost-lake.com/event/1582575-hott-mt-denver
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hott Mt apparently tracked down Wayne Coyne a handful of years ago and got him to work with them on some music and a video. He later became a fan of the band’s ethereal, synth driven pop music reminiscent of Air’s elegantly crafted nostalgia-inducing tonality and The Helio Sequence’s meshing of guitar rock and gossamery synth pop. Maybe think Black Moth Super Rainbow a bit too. Check out the band’s excellent 2017 album AU. Seems a good pairing with déCollage’s playfully colorful psychedelic music that sounds like it’s being channeled from a world where all classic children’s literature isn’t fiction but a wondrous world worth exploring.

Wednesday: December 13, 2017

Empress
Empress circa 2016, photo by Kelly Spencer

Who: Empress w/Grass and Paper Knees
When: Tuesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Empress’ 2017 album, Passion Fade, perfectly synthesizes the band’s instinct for dark, beat-driven industrial music, death rock and the heavier end of post-punk—think The Cult and early Death In June. Gritty, borderline abrasive stuff with corrosive atmospheres. In a bit of inspired pairing, Boulder’s lo-fi noise rock phenoms Grass are also on the bill. Fans of Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones, Eat Skull and the Reatards should check out Grass.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series 2017 finale
When: Wednesday, 12.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This will be the final installment of the 2017 edition of The Speakeasy Series presented by Glasss Records with a focus on more experimental electronic acts from Denver. The shows happened in the basement of Hooked on Colfax with Glasss bringing in a P.A. to allow the room to be awash in rich sounds. For this final show of the year in that series, Glasss will bring in various artists to perform. Some of them may even collaborate but, as with the rest of the series, it’ll be quality and interesting stuff.